NEW YORK -- Second baseman Stephen Lombardozzi picked up his first Major League hit, and it came at the right time as the Nationals edged the Mets, 3-2, at Citi Field on Monday night.
Lombardozzi, who was named the Nationals' 2011 Minor League Player of the Year last week, came to the plate with a runner on second base and the game tied at 2. Lombardozzi swung at a 1-1 pitch from right-hander R.A. Dickey and singled to left field, scoring Brian Bixler to give Washington a one-run lead. The hit broke an 0-for-15 skid to start Lombardozzi's Major League career.
"I thought it was great, and I thought it was a fitting inning," manager Davey Johnson said. "I saw Harry Potter [actor Daniel Radcliffe] today [at an event in Manhattan], so maybe we have a little magic. Lombardozzi was 0-for-15. What a way to get your first big league hit, with a game-winner. It couldn't be any better than that."
Lombardozzi acknowledged that he took a deep breath after getting the big hit.
"Getting the game-winning RBI was an awesome feeling," Lombardozzi said. "I was saying please get by him and [first-base coach] Trent [Jewett] told me to keep running, so they could cut the ball off, so I saw they scored. I was pretty pumped."
Before getting the big hit, there were teammates telling him stay calm. He felt his first Major League hit would come. He just had to be patient."
But it's tough to be patient when one is facing a knuckleballer in Dickey. Prior to Monday's action, Lombardozzi said he has faced a knuckleball pitcher only three times in his professional career.
"When they told me today it was a knuckleball pitcher, 'I said, 'Oh gosh.' But yeah, it was awesome to do it off anybody," Lombardozzi said.
Relievers Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen blanked the Mets the rest of the way with Storen picking up his 35th save of the season and the Nationals picked up their 68th victory of the season.
Left-hander Ross Detwiler started for Washington and was pitching on nine days' rest. After the second game of the doubleheader against the Dodgers was rained out this past Thursday, the Nationals decided Detwiler would be bypassed in the rotation in order for Tommy Milone and Stephen Strasburg to pitch on regular rest.
Not pitching in a while didn't have any ill effects on Detwiler. In fact, it looked like he was going to pitch his best game of the season. In the first five innings, Detwiler didn't allow a run and gave up one hit, a single to Nick Evans.
"It was really location," Detwiler said. "I was mixing up my pitches, working really well with [catcher] Wilson Ramos back there. I give all the credit to him because I think I shook him off one time and that was it."
In the meantime, the Nationals were able to give Detwiler a 2-0 lead by the top of the sixth inning against Dickey. In the fifth, Jayson Werth scored on a single by Ramos. An inning later, Ryan Zimmerman touched home plate on a single by Rick Ankiel.
"I had a pretty consistent knuckleball tonight, a lot better than when I faced them a couple weeks back," Dickey said. "And that's why you saw probably more strikeouts than I had the last time I faced them. I gave up a couple two-out hits, one with two strikes and a lot of times in a game like that it's going to come back to haunt you, and it did."
But Detwiler couldn't get out of the bottom of the sixth inning as the Mets tied the score at 2. After getting two quick outs, Detwiler walked Justin Turner and Lucas Duda before David Wright singled to send Turner home. However, Detwiler couldn't get that last out as Angel Pagan doubled near the right-field line to send Duda home.
Reliever Todd Coffey was able to stop the bleeding by striking out Jason Bay to end the threat. Coffey was able to get Bay on a slider.
"I kind of lost touch with my fastball. I just couldn't throw a strike there," Detwiler said. "I really wanted to finish the inning. Then it was Coffey Time."
After the game ended, Lombardozzi was given a nice surprise. He noticed that his parents were in the stands and witnessed his great moment. They already planned to attend the game, but decided not to tell their son. Lombardozzi, a native of the D.C. area, had a lot of family and friends come to Nationals Park during his first week in the big leagues.
"We just let him go, not have him think about anybody," former Major Leaguer Steve Lombardozzi said about his son. "Just go on the road and relax. So we decided to come here without him knowing and not be aware of it -- get away from it all and relax."
The elder Lombardozzi accomplished a lot in baseball, winning a World Series title with the Twins in 1987. However, he didn't have to think twice when asked about his best baseball moment. He got emotional and pointed to his son.
"It's almost beyond words," he said. "We decided to come up today. We were going to stay with him until he got it [his first MLB hit]. So it's very emotional to see him get it. It was very emotional, moreso than if he got it on his first at-bat or first day."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.