Meltdown: Nationals blow six-run lead, fall to Mets, 8-7

nationals_logoWashington had a 7-1 lead on New York Mets ace Matt Harvey in the seventh, and then Nationals relievers couldn’t throw a strike.

Three Nats pitchers walked six Mets, fueling a six-run inning that tied the score, and an eighth-inning pinch-hit homer by Kirk Nieuwenhuis lifted New York to an 8-7 backbreaking win at Nationals Park.

New York (77-61) has taken the first two games in the weekday series with the Nationals (71-67) to open up a commanding six-game lead in the National League East pennant race.

On a humid night, Washington starter Jordan Zimmerman lasted just five and two-thirds innings despite limiting the Mets to a run on three hits and a walk. A patient approach by New York hitters forced Zimmerman to throw 100 pitches on the night, and got the game to the bullpen early.

That patience was key in the seventh, when Blake Treinen, Felipe Rivero and Drew Storen had trouble finding the strike zone, combining to throw 19 strikes on 54 pitches in the inning, which saw the Mets score six runs on three hits, the big blow a three-run double by Yoenis Cespedes off Storen.

Storen walked three in the inning, including a bases-loaded walk to Lucas Duda that scored Cespedes with the tying run.

Nieuwenhuis homered off Nats closer Jonathan Papelbon (3-2, 1.75 ERA) with two outs in the eighth to break the tie.

Washington got runners on first and second with one down in the ninth off New York closer Jeurys Familia, but Yunel Escobar hit into a game-ending 5-4-3 double play to send the fans home in a stunned silence.