AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a pitcher who admittedly did not have his best stuff, the Washington Nationals kept giving themselves chances to score — and then figuring out ways to avoid adding runs.
In the second and third innings alone against Zack Wheeler and the New York Mets, the Nationals accumulated three hits, four walks and a wild pitch.
In that span Tuesday night, the NL East leaders also managed to have one baserunner, Asdrubal Cabrera, get hit by a batted ball, which resulted in an automatic out, and a hitter, Jayson Werth, ground into a double play. Then, in the sixth, Werth got thrown out at the plate.
Add it all up, and the Nationals lost for the sixth time in nine games, beaten 6-1 by the Mets.
Asked if he could identify a theme to his team’s inability to push more runs across, Washington manager Matt Williams said: “There’s no common thread. There’s no way to say, ‘OK, this is because, this is why.’ No. I mean, I haven’t seen a guy get hit with a batted ball in a while.”
Added Williams: “It happens sometimes. It seems like it’s going the wrong way the last couple of days, but we can turn that around tomorrow.”
Wheeler (7-8) allowed one run in 6 2-3 innings to win his fourth consecutive decision.
Washington’s Nos. 5-6 hitters, Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper, were a combined 0 for 7 with four strikeouts and a walk.
Werth led off the sixth with a double. When Adam LaRoche followed with a single to left, third base coach Bob Henley sent Werth home. Left fielder Eric Campbell threw out Werth with a one-hop toss; the call stood after a replay review to check whether Travis d’Arnaud blocked the plate.
“It changed the whole game right there,” said Daniel Murphy, who pushed New York’s lead to 4-1 with a two-run single in the seventh off reliever Drew Storen.
Werth, whose recently sprained right ankle was bothering him, had no problem with Henley’s decision.
“It would’ve taken a perfect throw, and that’s what happened,” Werth said. “We’re going to stay aggressive on the bases. That’s part of our game. That’s who we are. Sometimes it works out for you, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez (6-8) was charged with four runs and six hits over six-plus innings. He put two runners on to begin the seventh, then shook his head as he walked off the mound when Williams yanked him with Wheeler coming to the plate.
Asked if he was upset that he was removed there, Gonzalez replied: “I wanted to face the pitcher, yes.”
Mets: Closer Jenrry Mejia “tweaked his back” in Monday’s loss against San Francisco, manager Terry Collins said, calling the reliever’s status day to day.
Nationals: Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, on the DL since injuring his right hamstring July 22, has a grade-three strain and could miss six weeks, general manager Mike Rizzo said. Williams thinks Zimmerman — who began walking on a water treadmill Monday — could return during the regular season.
Mets: Wednesday’s starter, left-hander Jonathan Niese (5-7, 3.24 ERA), lasted only four innings in his last appearance at Nationals Park, allowing five runs in a 5-2 Mets loss May 16.
Nationals: The Nationals start righty Doug Fister (10-3, 2.68 ERA). Might second baseman Danny Espinosa get back into the lineup after giving way to trade deadline pickup Cabrera? Espinosa is 5 for 12 (a .417 average) against Niese.
ADDING AN ARM:
The Nationals claimed left-hander Matt Thornton off waivers from the Yankees, hoping to help a suddenly shaky bullpen that entered Tuesday having allowed 19 runs in its last 33 1-3 innings. Williams said Thornton would join the roster Wednesday.
NO PLACE LIKE GNOME:
With a “Jayson Werth Garden Gnome” giveaway, the game drew an announced crowd of 40,686. It’s the fifth time in the history of Nationals Park, which opened in 2008, that there were consecutive sellouts.
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