Flores continues to haunt Mets in win
Former New York farmhand sparks Nationals' four-run seventh
NEW YORK -- One better believe that catcher Jesus Flores takes great satisfaction in beating the Mets, the same team that left him unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft in 2006.
Two days ago, Flores drove in the go-ahead runs to help Washington pound New York, 10-4. On Wednesday night, Flores had another key hit, which helped the Nationals take another game from Mets, this time by the score of 5-3.
With the score tied at 1, the Nats scored four runs in the top of the seventh inning. With Aaron Heilman on the mound and a runner on second, Flores had one of his best at-bats of the season.
Flores was behind in the count, 0-2. Suddenly, Heilman found out quickly that he was in for a battle. Flores worked the count to 3-2. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Flores singled to left field to send Elijah Dukes home and give Washington a 2-1 lead. The run was charged to Mets right-hander Claudio Vargas, who pitched 6 1/3 quality innings and gave up the two runs.
"It was a great at-bat. After swinging at the first two bad pitches, I tried to calm myself down and then start looking for pitch to drive," Flores said. "Finally, I hit a fastball that I could handle."
Said manager Manny Acta about Flores' hit: "The key at-bat of the game. What an at-bat for the kid. A kid that was just playing A ball a couple of years ago. It was just a tremendous at-bat against Heilman. He got the go-ahead run in."
Asked how good it feels to show New York that it made a mistake by leaving him unprotected, Flores said, "It feels great. They made a mistake and I took advantage of it."
Acta continues to be amazed by Flores. The plan was to have Flores play every day in the Minor Leagues this season, but injuries to Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada have made Flores the everyday catcher.
"I can't say enough about that kid," Acta said. "I like him a lot."
Mets catcher Brian Schneider saw firsthand what Flores could do with the bat and was not surprised by what Flores has done against the Mets. Flores was Schneider's backup last season in Washington.
"Obviously, he's come up and gotten some big hits," Schneider said. "They're giving him a chance to play now. That's good for him, because now he can get some at-bats. I hope he doesn't keep doing it against us."
The Nationals were far from done in the seventh inning. After pinch-hitter Willie Harris walked to put runners on first and second, Felipe Lopez singled to right to drive in Flores. Guzman then doubled home Harris and Lopez.
The Mets made it a 5-3 game in the bottom of the eighth inning. But it was Luis Ayala who prevented New York from doing any further damage.
With runners on first and second and one out, David Wright came to the plate and hit a soft fly ball to center field for the second out of the inning. It not only was a big out for the Nationals, it was a confidence boost for Ayala. Prior to the game, he had given up nine runs in his past five innings.
"It was huge, not only for his confidence because he knows that we trust him, but also for the team," Acta said. "It was a good matchup. Jon Rauch has a tough time with Wright and Ayala has a tough time with [Carlos] Beltran. I wanted a ground ball, but Ayala got the popup."
Rauch then entered and allowed an RBI single to Beltran. After that, Rauch retired the next four hitters he faced to pick up his eighth save of the season.
The winning pitcher was Tim Redding, who pitched six solid innings and gave up one run on two hits. He struck out four batters and walked two others.
New York took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth, when Schneider hit a 2-0 pitch over the right-field wall for his second home run of the season.
But Washington tied things up against Vargas in the top of the seventh inning, when Ryan Zimmerman hit a mammoth homer that landed in the left-field mezzanine.
Thanks to Flores, the Nationals have won two of the past three games and improved their record to 17-24.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.