Instant analysis: Nats 8, Mets 2

Instant analysis: Nats 8, Mets 2
July 24, 2012, 2:29 am
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Game in a nutshell: Jordan Zimmermann did his usual thing, allowing one run over six sparkling innings. And the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Bryce Harper's first home run since June 28. But they were silenced at the plate by the soft-tossing Chris Young after that, and some curious bullpen maneuvers by Davey Johnson in the bottom of the seventh -- Drew Storen only faced one batter before he was replaced by Michael Gonzalez, who gave up the game-tying homer to Ike Davis -- prevented Zimmermann from earning his eighth win. The game wound up in extra innings, at which point a Nationals lineup that had been stagnant almost the entire night suddenly sprung to life in spectacular fashion. In succession in the top of the 10th, Harper laced an RBI single, Ryan Zimmerman cleared the bases with a double and Michael Morse launched a 2-run homer. How often do you see a team win in extra innings by 6 runs? Well, the Nats just did it. And thanks to the Braves' loss in Miami, they now lead the NL East by 4 12 games.

Hitting highlight: When the Nationals opened the bottom of the first with three hits off Young, including Harper's two-run homer, they looked poised to pick up where they left off during yesterday's 9-run explosion. Then they were completely wiped out by a right-hander with an 84-mph fastball. Young didn't give up another hit through the seventh inning, when he finally departed. It was a weak offensive showing from a lineup that had been red-hot, against a pitcher who clearly didn't have overwhelming stuff. Yet that all felt insignificant in the top of the 10th. Harper, Zimmerman and Morse completely changed the storyline, each crushing a pitch from Pedro Beato with more authority than the previous one. Pretty remarkable how a team can go from what looked like a feeble performance at the plate to a dominant one.

Pitching highlight: Leave it to Mr. Consistency to do what he always does: Pitch six quality innings. For the 20th time in 20 starts this season, Zimmermann went at least six. And for the 12th time in those 20 starts, he allowed zero or one earned run. Zimmermann's lone mistake: a solo homer by David Wright in the bottom of the fourth. Otherwise, he was effective as always, needing a respectable 89 pitches to complete those six innings. He easily could have gone deeper, but Johnson decided to pinch-hit for Zimmermann in the top of the seventh, a move that wound up backfiring when Tyler Moore struck out and

Key stat: Zimmermann entered the game throwing 68 percent of his pitches for strikes, the fourth-best rate in the majors this season. And he topped that mark tonight, throwing 73 percent of his pitches (65 of 89) for strikes.

Up next: Game 2 of the series features a rematch of what last week figured to be a great pitchers' duel between Gio Gonzalez and R.A. Dickey. Gonzalez, though, will have to bounce back after the shortest start of his season: only 3 13 innings. First pitch at Citi Field is at 7:10 p.m.