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Nats flash some serious leather in win over Mets

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Nats flash some serious leather in win over Mets

There was Yunel Escobar's backhanded stab of John Mayberry's smash down the third-base line in the top of the first, perhaps preventing two runs from scoring. There was Michael Taylor's galloping catch of Eric Campbell's drive to deep right-center in the top of the fifth, again perhaps preventing two runs from scoring. There was Bryce Harper's shoestring snag of Wilmer Flores' sinking liner to right in the top of the eighth. And moments later, there was Jose Lobaton's sprawling grab of Mayberry's foul-pop, up against a backstop railing and just shy of the camera well.

The Nationals made so many highlight-reel plays in the field during Monday night's 7-2 victory over the Mets, one of the game's primary beneficiaries couldn't choose just one to celebrate.

"All of them," Gio Gonzalez said. "Escobar. Danny. The play Mikey T made in right-center. It's fun to watch when these guys are playing their tails off. And Bryce made some nice sliding plays. It makes it easier for a pitcher when these guys are making some great plays out there."

For a team that has been known at times to look awfully sloppy in the field, the Nationals sure looked like defensive gurus Monday night. Across the board, this might well have been their best defensive game of the season.

"It takes that to beat a good club," manager Matt Williams said.

And it might have taken all those plays Monday to beat the Mets, who were denied at least four runs via spectacular plays by Escobar and Taylor.

The game's entire tenor might have been different had Escobar not made his backhanded snare of Mayberry's first-inning hot shot to third, then made a perfect throw across the diamond to end the frame without a run scoring. If the ball gets through, New York probably hands Matt Harvey a 2-run lead before he ever takes the mound. Instead, it remained a scoreless affair heading to the bottom of the first, at which point the Nationals pounced on Harvey for two runs.

"He's been huge over there at third base," said Clint Robinson, who was the recipient of Escobar's pinpoint throw across the diamond to complete the play. "From spring training and being moved around from second to third base, he's been kind of a rock over there for us. He's been really important to our club, moving around, leading off, hitting cleanup; he's pretty much just doing it all right now."

Escobar's play might well have stood as the gem of the evening, if not for Taylor's remarkable catch to end the top of the fifth. With two on, two out and the Nationals leading 5-2, Campbell roped a drive to deep right-center. Heads immediately hung in despair.

"As soon as he hit the ball, I thought: 'Oh, that's a problem. Oh, my god,'" Lobaton said.

"I thought it was at least off the wall," Gonzalez said. "Maybe top of the wall."

Except here was Taylor gliding toward the wall in right-center like a gazelle, long strides allowing him to cover a ton of ground before he reached out and grabbed the ball moments before reaching the chain-link fence that guards the out-of-town scoreboard.

As the crowd of 31,326 roared with approval, Gonzalez raised both arms in celebration, then pointed toward his center fielder to say thanks.

"I couldn't be happier to see Mikey T making a nice play like that," the left-hander said. "It's tough to keep your emotions in check. But when a play like that happens, you gotta show love when love is due."

It didn't take more than the naked eye to appreciate Taylor's effort, but once the official numbers were revealed via MLB's Statcast system, the catch became even more impressive.

Taylor covered more than 97 feet to make the play, topping out at 19.8 mph. His route to the ball earned an efficiency rating of 98 percent. And his reaction time? Well, it might be more appropriate to refer to it as his anticipation time.

Taylor actually began breaking toward the ball .05 seconds before Campbell made contact. Yes, before. Paying attention to Gonzalez's pitch and Lobaton's positioning behind the plate, Taylor anticipated a ball hit to his left and thus took his first step a split-second before bat hit ball.

"It was a perfect read," Williams said. "Perfect angle, and he was able to run it down."

The Taylor catch probably was the biggest highlight of the game in the field, but the two plays the Nationals made in the top of the eighth were no less significant. Harper came charging in to make a sliding catch of Flores' soft liner to right. A few seconds later, Lobaton made his remarkable catch of Mayberry's popup, evading metal railings, stone walls and a drop down into the camera well next to the visitors' dugout.

"I wasn't expecting that play," Lobaton said. "I was running to the ball, saw the ball. The sky was kind of like dark, kind of weird. It wasn't easy. It was a deep flyball and I saw it and then at the last second the ball is moving that way. I reached it and I caught it and I'm like, that's cool. That was big for us at that point."

It seemed like everything the Nationals did in the field Monday night proved to be big for them.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.