Mistakes by Jake Irvin cost the Nationals a 7-5 loss to the Mets

Mistakes by Jake Irvin cost the Nationals a 7-5 loss to the Mets

NEW YORK — One of Dave Martinez’s biggest pet peeves: When a pitcher gets the first two outs of an inning and then walks the third batter. This season, the manager has worried less about that; the rebirth of the Washington Nationals’ pitching has resulted from a focus on attacking the strike zone.

But on Tuesday night at Citi Field, Jake Irvin’s brief lapse in concentration escalated into a painful second inning during a 7-5 loss to the New York Mets that opened a three-game series.

Irvin got the first two outs of the second inning, then walked Jeff McNeil – the Mets’ No. 8 hitter – on five pitches. It wasn’t a big deal until Harrison Bader and Francisco Lindor hit singles to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Two pitches later, Brandon Nimmo hit a three-run home run to the opposite field. A harmless two-out walk had turned into a four-run inning.

“It’s my job to keep guys off the base paths,” Irvin said. “And letting guys get on the bases with two outs is unacceptable.”

On the home run, rookie left fielder James Wood took a few steps back and seemed ready to settle under a fly ball. But he continued to move back as the ball continued to fly and eventually cleared the fence. According to Baseball Savant, it would have been a home run in only 14 of 30 MLB ballparks.

Irvin lasted six innings and allowed six runs – all with two outs. (The Mets scored another run in the eighth inning against Jordan Weems.) The 27-year-old was an All-Star candidate who has impressed in his second MLB season, but Tuesday’s rough outing pushed his ERA to 3.13 as he matched the highest number of runs he has allowed this season. His other six-run appearance came on April 24 in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were his opponent for the second consecutive year.

Irvin faced the same scenario on Tuesday. On Thursday at Nationals Park, he pitched eight innings with one hit and eight strikeouts in a 1-0 win over the Mets. Jose Quintana was his opponent that day and threw seven scoreless innings of his own, allowing four hits.

Quintana was even better on Tuesday, allowing just one hit in seven innings and striking out five. He shut down the team in order in six innings. The only time he failed to do so was in the third inning, when Luis García Jr. opened the inning with a single to center and advanced to second base on an error by Bader. A hit-by-pitch and a walk loaded the bases with two outs for Wood, who suffered a groundout on the first pitch.

“He didn’t miss in the middle,” catcher Keibert Ruiz said of Quintana. “He just attacked the bottom of the zone. His breaking ball was good when he was behind.”

When Quintana left, the Nationals (42-50), who had lost three games in a row, regained their strength. A double by García greeted reliever Adam Ottavino in the eighth inning, then pinch hitter Ildemaro Vargas hit his first home run of the season. In the ninth inning against Reed Garrett, Juan Yepez hit a double before Ruiz himself added a long two-run shot to make it 7-4. A two-out walk to Jacob Young forced the Mets (45-45) to bring in closer Edwin Díaz, whose wild pitch allowed Young to score from second base before striking out All-Star CJ Abrams and ending the game.

After Nimmo’s home run, Irvin settled in by striking out the next six batters. In last week’s matchup, he relied heavily on his curveball (40 pitches) and fastball (38), mixing in 18 sinkers, two cutters and a slider. But on Tuesday, his game plan was different: He threw 31 sinkers, 30 curveballs and 29 fastballs (plus three changeups and a cutter).

“He wasn’t as sharp,” Martinez said. “His breaking ball wasn’t as sharp. He fell behind a couple of hitters and made some errors just because of the position. Overall, he gave us some innings that we needed. It’s just one of those days.”

In the sixth inning, Irvin faced the same problem he had in the second. He made the first two outs, but this time allowed a single to Bader that put him at the top of the batting order. Lindor smashed a 2-1 fastball that Irvin left over the middle of the plate for a two-run homer. The lights of Citi Field flashed blue and orange as Irvin turned to the home plate umpire and asked for another ball.

“He’s been a workhorse for us, so it’s just one game,” Martinez said. “He has one more start before the (All-Star) break. He’ll get it done and go back out there and compete.”

Remarks: Joey Gallo is not yet cleared to run the bases, but is back in light baseball action nearly a month after straining his left thigh. Over the weekend, Gallo caught ground balls at first base. On Tuesday, he threw strikes during batting practice. …

Right-hander Trevor Williams continues to rehab a strained right flexor that has kept him out of action since early June. He’s throwing from 60 feet but still has a ways to go before he can throw from the mound. Gallo and Williams entered the season as potential transfer candidates, but their injuries make it unlikely they’ll contribute much – if anything – as the July 30 transfer deadline approaches. …

Left-hander Jose A. Ferrer is scheduled to pitch for Class AA Harrisburg on Tuesday as he recovers from a strained left shoulder. After that, he and right-hander Cade Cavalli (Tommy John surgery) will travel to Florida to pitch during the All-Star break.

Washington Nationals