Washington Nationals

Nationals put a dagger in the Mets’ playoff hopes

The Washington Nationals erased a six-run ninth inning deficit to beat the New York Mets 11-10 on Tuesday, all but ending any hope the Mets had of making the playoffs.

The New York Mets, fighting for an NL Wild Card spot, seemed well on the way to earning a much-needed victory over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday. What happened next not only ruined their playoff chances, but will go down as one of the worst losses in franchise history.

The game at Nationals Park started off as a matchup between Cy Young candidates Max Scherzer for the Nationals and the Mets’ Jacob deGrom. Scherzer wasn’t great, giving up four earned runs in six innings. The Mets ace, meanwhile, had only allowed two runs through seven innings when he came back out to pitch the eighth with a 5-2 lead. After giving up a leadoff single, though, deGrom then surrendered a two-run home run to Juan Soto to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth. That’s when history was made.

A mental mistake by Nationals shortstop Trea Turner allowed the Mets to open up a comfortable, almost insurmountable lead in the top half of the inning. With one out and runners on first and second base, catcher Tomas Nido hit a groundball to Turner for what should’ve been an inning-ending double play. Instead, Turner forgot to throw to second and only got the out at first. Now with new life in the inning, Jeff McNeil hit a two-run RBI single to left before Pete Alonso hit a 95 mph fastball from Daniel Hudson on the outside corner 427 feet to center field for his 44th home run of the season.

The Mets took a 10-4 win in the bottom of the inning, a key win surely just three outs away. Fangraphs’ projections gave them a 99.7 percent chance of winning. But nothing comes easy for the 2019 Mets, and certainly not three outs against an NL East rival they are chasing for a playoff spot.

After relievers Paul Sewald and Luis Avilan could only manage one out while surrendering two runs, including a make-up double by Turner, the Mets brought in closer Edwin Diaz. Diaz, fresh off a league-leading 57 saves and 1.96 ERA in for the Seattle Mariners in 2018, was acquired by the Mets in an offseason trade precisely for moments like this.

The first batter he faced, however, was Ryan Zimmerman, who hit a double past a diving Michael Conforto in right-field to drive in two runs and bring the Nationals within two. Diaz then got Kurt Suzuki in a 3-2 count before, on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Suzuki hit a 99 mph fastball 400 feet to left field for a walk-off three-run homer.

The Nationals won 11-10, completing the largest ninth-inning comeback in franchise history. The Mets, meanwhile, have fallen 4.5 games out of a playoff spot after suffering their biggest collapse in team history. Diaz, their prized offseason acquisition, saw his ERA on the year rise to 5.65. He’s now given up eight earned runs over nine innings in 12 appearances since the start of August.

It’s a tough blow for the Mets’ chances of playing in October, but manager Mickey Callaway says his club has to find a way to regroup for the series finale against Washington tomorrow. “It’s tough. It’s going to be tough to digest tonight,” he said after the game in the Mets clubhouse. “But you have to do it. We’ve had to digest several, and you got to come out tomorrow and win the series.”

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The Nationals, meanwhile, now have a four-game lead over the Chicago Cubs for the top Wild Card spot in the National League, and a six-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the playoff race. Tuesday’s win was their 10th in their last 12 games. But none of those earlier wins was as sweet as this one, as they not only celebrated a walk-off win but left a division rival wondering just what hit them.

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