Pesky Nats rally past Mets in extras
Zimmerman ties game in ninth; Guillen homers in five-run 10th
NEW YORK -- On Wednesday night, the game-time temperature between the Nationals and Mets was 44 degrees at Shea Stadium, and the Nats' bats were just as cold for the most of the game. But the lumber got hot in the late innings, as Washington defeated New York, 9-5, in 10 innings.
The Nationals came back from a 4-0 deficit, and their victory was reminiscent of many games they won during the first half of last year.
With the score tied at 4 in the 10th inning, Washington scored five runs off reliever Jorge Julio. The biggest blow came when Jose Guillen took Julio's hanging slider and hit a two-run homer that just cleared the left-center-field fence.
"I got a good pitch to hit," Guillen said. "It was a hanging slider right down the middle. What do you expect me to do in that situation? I was not thinking home run. I was thinking about hitting the ball hard somewhere."
The Nationals added three more runs in the inning, with Royce Clayton driving in two with a single and Damian Jackson doubling in the final run.
The winning pitcher was Chad Cordero, while Julio took the loss.
At first, it looked like Mets right-hander Brian Bannister was going to be the hero on this night. He had a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings, but he ended up allowing three runs on two hits in six innings. He struck out four batters and walked four.
"He threw strikes, but he doesn't blow you away," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "He is only averaging 86, 87 [miles per hour]."
Nationals right-hander John Patterson was the antithesis of Bannister, giving up four runs in four innings. It didn't help that Patterson was playing with a sore right forearm.
The injury prevented him from throwing his slider. Patterson has had the forearm problem since his Spring Training appearance against the Orioles last Friday. Robinson wasn't sure if Patterson would make his next start, but the righty believes he will back on the mound against the Astros on April 10.
"If I get this taken care of, get my slider back, I'm fine," Patterson said. "I thought my stuff was pretty good [considering the injury]."
The Mets had a 4-0 lead against Patterson after three innings. New York took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, when David Wright singled to right field to drive in Jose Reyes. Xavier Nady collected his fifth straight hit against the Nationals when he hit Patterson's 1-0 pitch into the left-field bleachers the next inning. In the third, Carlos Delgado parked a two-run homer into the right-field stands for his first home run in a Mets uniform.
But it was the Nationals' bullpen that contained the Mets. Jon Rauch, Mike Stanton, Gary Majewski and Cordero combined to keep the Mets scoreless for the next five innings.
"That's what we need from the bullpen all season long, because the starters can only go so far," Robinson said. "If the starters can't do the job, the relievers have to hold us in a game until we can score.
"Tonight, Patterson was struggling a little bit and he could only give us four, but he didn't let the game get away. The bullpen did a great job for us tonight."
Washington started to make its comeback in the sixth inning off Bannister. With runners on first and second and one out, Nick Johnson hit a three-run homer to make it a 4-3 game.
In the ninth inning, Mets closer Billy Wagner came in to finish off the game. During the Robinson era, whenever Wagner comes into a game against his team, it's usually lights out. But not on Wednesday, as rookie Ryan Zimmerman took a 3-2 pitch and hit a monster home run over the left-field wall, hitting a sign in the mezzanine area. It was Zimmerman's first career home run.
Zimmerman said the home run was special because he hit it off a dominant closer like Wagner. The two have known each other since Zimmerman attended the University of Virginia. Wagner, a Virginia resident in the offseason, often visited the school and had conversations with the rookie third baseman.
"I was just trying to get on base," Zimmerman said. "He fell behind, 3-0. On 3-1, I had a good pitch to hit, too, and I just missed it foul. He came back with the same pitch and I knew I got it that time."
Robinson said he was not surprised by Zimmerman's heroics, but cautioned not to put him in the Hall of Fame just yet.
"We are not going to put any high expectations on this kid, but I think you'll see that he's above the average young player coming into the league," Robinson said. "He is going to do some things that [are] going to surprise you and scratch your head. We are going to let him play."
Guillen said Zimmerman has improved since hitting .397 in 20 games after his late-season callup.
"He doesn't look like a rookie to me," Guillen said. "He plays like he's a veteran. He looks way different than last year. I'm really impressed by what I see in him. I know a lot of people are expecting him to put up monster numbers this year. He looks ready at third base and looks ready at home plate."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.