Nationals drop series opener to Mets 6-1

Nationals drop series opener to Mets 6-1
August 5, 2014, 10:15 pm
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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Stuck in a disappointing stretch of baseball, the Nationals hoped to get back on track against a Mets club they have owned since late last season, winning 10 of their last 11 head-to-head meetings. Instead, they squandered a bunch of early opportunities against right-hander Zack Wheeler and couldn't overcome Gio Gonzalez's early and late struggles.

The Nationals had Wheeler on the ropes, putting seven total men on base in the second and third innings, yet managed only one run (on a wild pitch) after a couple of poor at-bats and some disastrous baserunning. That proved to be their best chance to do some damage and bounce back from Gonzalez's first two innings, when he allowed two runs.

The game really turned in the seventh, though, when Drew Storen entered in relief of Gonzalez and let three runs cross the plate (albeit on a potential double-play grounder that got past second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, followed by a bloop single to left-center). That turned a 2-1 game that was well within reach into a 5-1 deficit that felt far too large for this team to overcome.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: It's not like the Nationals didn't have chances. They seemingly had one every inning against Wheeler. But they kept finding ways to spoil those chances. Jayson Werth and Steven Souza Jr. each grounded into 6-4-3 double plays with two on and nobody out. Werth was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on Adam LaRoche's single to left. And in probably the low point of the night, Cabrera let Jose Lobaton's hard grounder strike him as he tried to run from second to third bases. That's an automatic out, and it forced Ian Desmond (who would've scored) back to third base. That about summed up this night at the plate for the Nationals.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: In an up-and-down season, this was an up-and-down start for Gonzalez. Things began in a decidedly downward fashion when he allowed runs in the first and second innings. Then the left-hander somehow managed to right his ship and retire 12 of the next 13 batters he faced. But just when it looked like he would finish his night on a high note, Gonzalez got into trouble again. He walked Eric Young Jr. to open the seventh, then gave up a single to Ruben Tejada. Matt Williams decided he had seen enough. Gonzalez was pulled, much to his chagrin, and when Storen allowed two inherited runners to score, Gio wound up with an unimpressive pitching line: 4 earned runs allowed in 6-plus innings.

STREAK WATCH: With an infield single up the middle in the bottom of the third, Denard Span extended his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 31, now the second-longest in Nationals history behind only Ryan Zimmerman's 43-game streak in 2009.

KEY STAT: The Nationals are now 5-8 since Zimmerman injured his hamstring on July 22 in Colorado.

UP NEXT: The series continues at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday when Doug Fister gets the ball against Mets lefty Jonathon Niese.