NEW YORK -- A costly error by reliever Henry Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth inning helped the Mets defeat the Nationals, 4-3, at Citi Field on Monday night. Washington lost its second consecutive game to even its record at 2-2 for the season.
It was an inning in which Rodriguez didn't record an out. The game was tied at 3 when Rodriguez walked leadoff hitter Mike Baxter.
"Nobody wants to go into the ninth and walk the first guy," Rodriguez said. "I really feel bad."
Ruben Tejada came to the plate and bunted the ball toward Rodriguez, who threw the ball past second baseman Danny Espinosa for a two-base error. During the play, Tejada and Espinosa collided at first base. Espinosa was dazed, but prevented Baxter from scoring with a great throw to third base. Espinosa was not seriously hurt on the play.
"That was a tough one," manager Davey Johnson said. "Henry had a little problem with PFP [pitchers fielding practice]. He got to the bunt good. He just had a problem throwing it to first."
Rodriguez thought about going to second base on the play, but when he didn't see shortstop Ian Desmond covering the bag, Rodriguez decided to go to first. Rodriguez threw the ball in a sidearm motion and the ball moved away from Espinosa for the error.
"Sometimes, I throw sidearm and the ball moves," Rodriguez said.
With runners on second and third and no outs, Daniel Murphy came to the plate and singled to right-center field, scoring Baxter to end the game.
"I was trying to breathe," Muprhy said. "I sent up a prayer right there -- not to necessarily do [well], but just to take away the anxiety. I felt blessed that I was able to slow the heart rate down. I was kind of running through the situations of what they might do.
"I figured they would pitch to me, even with the base open. If they get me out maybe on a punch out, they can walk David [Wright] and then go to Ike [Davis]. So I'm kind of running through the situations and trying not to hyperventilate. I was really glad to be able to relax right there."
Rodriguez wasn't the only one member of the Nationals who couldn't execute a play. In the top of the ninth inning, Washington had a chance to score the go-ahead run. After Stephen Lombardozzi led off the inning with a walk, Ian Desmond couldn't get the bunt down to advance the runner. Instead, he hit into a force play.
"It could have been a whole new different inning," Johnson said. "We just have to do the little things. We still have some work to do."
Desmond couldn't recall the last he was unable to get the bunt down.
"I would have liked to have to get the bunt down. It happens," Desmond said. "I put too much barrel on [the ball]."
Right-hander Edwin Jackson made his Nationals debut, lasting five innings, allowing three runs on four hits, striking out six batters and walking two.
"I thought Edwin threw the ball well. First time out with a new ballclub, I didn't want to push him too far," said Johnson. "I had it set up for my bullpen. I had a fresh guy in Gorzo [Tom Gorzelanny], and Gorzo did a great job. We just didn't do the little things. We had runners in scoring position and didn't get the hit, We have to be better at that."
Jackson was given a 3-0 lead in the third inning. With Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey on the mound, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the first, when Espinosa scored on a single by Adam LaRoche. In the top of the third, Desmond scored all the way from first on a double by Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman then scored on a single by LaRoche.
But the Mets would tie the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. In the third, Pelfrey, who led off with a double, would score on a two-out single by Wright. An inning later, Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a two-run homer to knot the game at 3.
After the fourth inning, Jackson was seen covering his face in frustration and then smacking his glove.
"After the walk, I still felt pretty good. I got ahead in the count. You get the count to 1-2 and get it to 2-2, it's just a matter of making a pitch," Jackson said. "I felt like I put myself in a good situation and be able to get out of the inning with no damage done. You work the count and you make great pitches into the last one. It was a sloppy pitch ... for the home run. It's was definitely frustration with myself and anybody else."
It was a frustrating loss for the Nationals, for sure.
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.