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Mets beat Nats 2-1 in epic game capped by Flores walk-off

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Mets beat Nats 2-1 in epic game capped by Flores walk-off

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: You want pennant race baseball? Here you go, folks. A few short hours after the trade deadline passed, the Nationals and Mets opened a big weekend series that will play a significant role in the outcome of this season's NL East race. And it was everything you could want it to be. And some things you never wanted it to be.

Matt Harvey carried a perfect game into the sixth inning, but the New York ace was left with no margin for error because the Nationals pitching staff managed to limit the Mets to one run (with Gio Gonzalez avoiding disaster during a walk-filled bottom of the fourth).

Harvey continued into the top of the eighth, despite a pitch count approaching 110 and command that was losing its sharpness. That's when Yunel Escobar came through with a game-tying, 2-out RBI single up the middle, dashing the Citi Field crowd's hopes and leaving Harvey with no decision. Then came Tyler Clippard, facing his old club for the first time, engaging in an epic, 13-pitch at-bat with Jayson Werth that ended on a borderline 3-2 pitch called a strike.

Aaron Barrett tossed two scoreless innings out of the Nationals bullpen, and so this game went into extras. The Nats couldn't push anything across against Mets closer Jeurys Familia, nor could they do it against Hansel Robles. Robles, though, was helped by a borderline strike three call on Bryce Harper, which left the young star screaming in umpire Jerry Meals' face ... and subsequently getting ejected, forcing Ryan Zimmerman to left field and Dan Uggla to first base for the first time in his career.

That ultimately didn't affect the outcome of the game. But Wilmer Flores sure did. The Mets infielder, who was in tears two nights ago when he thought he had been traded to Milwaukee, ended this game with a home run off Felipe Rivero that sent the crowd into a frenzy and left New York a mere 2 games behind the Nationals.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: With Harvey fading in the eighth, two out and two on, Escobar delivered the biggest hit of the night (to that point) for the Nationals. He didn't bite at Harvey's pitches out of the zone, then managed to get on top of a high fastball and send it back up the middle for a huge, game-tying single that knocked the Mets ace out of the game. It was merely the latest quality at-bat from Escobar, who has proven quite the important acquisition for the Nationals.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: The bad news: Gonzalez was all over the place during the fourth and fifth innings, issuing four combined walks during those two frames and putting himself in all kinds of danger. The good news: Gonzalez somehow was able to emerge from all of that allowing only one run to cross the plate. (Some credit, of course, goes to Tanner Roark for bailing the starter out in the fifth.) Gonzalez was visibly upset at himself — and possibly Matt Williams — as everything played out, but the quick hook was necessary given the situation. With Harvey dealing for the Mets, Williams couldn't afford to risk pushing his starter any farther.

KEY STAT: Matt Harvey retired 30 consecutive Nationals batters over the span of two starts. The streak began after a Jose Lobaton walk in the third inning on July 20 at Nationals Park. It ended with a Jose Lobaton single in the sixth inning Friday night.

UP NEXT: The series continues at 7:10 p.m. Saturday when Joe Ross (2-3, 3.03) faces Jacob deGrom (10-6, 2.05) in another big game at Citi Field.

MORE NATIONALS: Nats' reliever to get second opinion on ailing shoulder

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A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

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USA TODAY Sports

A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

Tuesday evening's All-Star game was fairly uneventful until its later innings. The American League triumphed over the National League, 8 - 6, for their sixth straight All-Star game victory.

Despite fears of potential rain and inclement weather delaying the game, there were no unexpected stops in play. 

The AL started very strong offensively, with runs from Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in the top of the second and third innings, respectively. Jean Segura's three-run homer in the top of the eighth made victory look inevitable for the AL by the fifth. 

Max Scherzer, unsurprisingly, was well received among fans at Nationals Park. The Nats starter pitched the first two innings, giving up four hits. One was Judge's second-inning homer, but Scherzer remained unfazed and lighthearted. Four strikeouts made his performance commendable.

Bryce Harper did not get on as well, striking out in both of his at-bats. After Harper's Home Run Derby win last night, there was chatter of him going for the MVP title as well. 

It didn't work out, but given Harper's consistent presence at the All-Star game, there's always another chance.

Elsewhere in the dugout for the NL, who rallied back from the three-run deficit, the kids were all right. Willson Contreras of the Cubs had a solo homer at the bottom of the third, the Rockies' Trevor Story had one in the seventh, and Christian Yelich added another in the eighth. A two-run homer by Scooter Gennett in the bottom of the ninth brought the game back to a 5-5 tie.

Jesus Aguilar struck out for the NL, and extra innings began.

In the top of the tenth, Alex Bregman and George Springer, both of the Astros, hit home runs almost immediately off of Dodgers pitcher Ross Stipling. Stop us if you've heard that one before.

With no outs, Michael Brantley took a sacrifice flyout to right field, and Jean Segura got in one more run to put the score at 8-5.

Though Joey Votto (Reds) hit one last home run in the bottom of the tenth, the NL couldn't quite make up the deficit.

After a late night, the American League will be going home happy.

MORE ALL-STAR GAME NEWS:

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Live Blog

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USA TODAY Sports

2018 MLB All-Star Game Live Blog

This is the year's most ambitious crossover event in baseball. Dozens of MLB standouts from dozens of teams ally along either the National or American league. The two teams play against each other in a lighthearted frankensquad matchup. It's a welcome change of pace, considering how stressed we are about the Nationals' win percentage.

At the moment, we're keeping our eyes to the sky to monitor incoming rain. Aside from the threat of rain delay, we're excited to see how things unfold.

TOP 10 - Yikes, uh, so that's two solo home runs, and still no outs?

BOT 9 - A lot of people have either Bad Bunny or Post Malone as their walk up music. Also, uh, Scooter did a two-run homer, so now we're going to extra innings.

TOP 9 - Nothing is happening. Yawn.

BOT 8 - Yelich homers! We love one Brewer! It's 5-3 AL.

TOP 8 - Segura hits a three-run homer. Cruz adds it to his Instagram story. The AL is up 5-2. Yikes.

TOP 8 - Blackmon is very charming when mic'd up. He's talking about how lonely the outfield is. In other adjacent boredom news, Mike Trout follows over 145 weather related accounts on twitter. Yes, we went through his 2,400 user long following list to check.

BOT 7 - Bottoms tend to be the most exciting. Arenado knows this. So he tied it with a solo homer.

TOP 7 - Please, we are all so tired, and this pace is so slow. Votto has a nice tag, Yelich loses a ball in the lights but still makes the out. 

BOT 6 - Everybody Hates The National League. Votto, Yelich, and Blackmon all come up short.

INT 6 - Everyone on the internet and the broadcast loses their minds over Manny Machado.

TOP 6 - Nelson Cruz goes up against pitcher Jeremy Jeffress to start the inning. We take a brief pause for another selfie. Isn't it kind of a bad idea to have your phone in your pocket when you're at bat? Anyway. Bregman hits a double, but is immediately outshined as we go to Manny Machado for an interview about how it feels to wear an Orioles uniform for (maybe) the last time. Limor pinch hits for Machado, and doesn't quite get it out of the park. Oh well.

BOT 5 - Contreras gets a hit off Jose Berrios and promptly gets tagged first. Javier Baez looks amazing at the plate, but flies out. Arenado walks. Trout-man catches Molina's almost-homer. NL, do better please.

TOP 5 - Aaron Nola strikes out Brandon Crawford fairly easily and Mookie Betts not so easily. Mike Trout, who looks like he would post pictures with trout and other fish on Instagram, pops up and across the first base line. Sorry AL.

BOT 4 - Bryce Harper faces Blake Snell and strikes out for the second time tonight. Maybe he thought tonight was a Strikeout Derby?

TOP 4 - Machado pops up to the third baseman in what may be his final at-bat wearing an Orioles uniform.

TOP 4 - Matt Kemp deftly avoids tampering charges when the FOX broadcast crew asks him about his selfie with Machado.

BOT 2 - Manny begins acquainting himself with his LA teammates.

BOT 2 - Chris Sale only stuck around for one inning, apparently. It's Luis Severino time in D.C. He allows a double from Matt Kemp to start but then strikes out Bryce Harper. 

TOP 2 - Aaron Judge takes Scherzer deep. 1-0 AL. Sigh.

BOT 1 - AL Starter Chris Sale responds with a scoreless frame of his own. We're on our way to that 3-2 thriller after all!!! 

TOP 1 - Scherzer strikes out Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve before walking Mike Trout (can't blame him) and allowing a hit to J.D. Martinez. No damage done though, and it's 0-0. 

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