NEW YORK (AP) — Stephen Lombardozzi had never been in a situation like this before — seventh inning, runner on second in a tie game.
He also had never gotten a major league hit — hitless in his first 15 at-bats.
The 22-year-old with a week in the bigs came through, though, lining a tiebreaking single to left and lifting the Washington Nationals to a 3-2 victory over the New York Mets on Monday night.
“It was a big deep breath afterwards,” said Lombardozzi, a 19th-round pick by the Nationals in 2008. “To drive the guy in to get the game-winning RBI is pretty awesome.”
The postgame was pretty fun for him, too. First he learned that his mom and dad were at the game, then his teammates played a prank, giving him a ball with “0 for 15 now 1 for 16″ written on it by Todd Coffey (5-1) before Lombardozzi was handed the real souvenir ball.
“He couldn’t get too much out. He was pretty emotional,” Lombardozzi said of his dad, a former big league player himself. “I think they were just as relieved as me.”
Ross Detwiler and R.A. Dickey (8-12) were locked in early, each giving up one hit through four innings that took just 52 minutes. The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the fifth with help from Mets third baseman David Wright’s fourth error in three games.
Jayson Werth had three hits and Rick Ankiel and Wilson Ramos drove in runs for Washington, winners of two straight. One more win and the Nationals (68-77) will match their total from last year, when they went 69-93.
Coffey got one out in the sixth, Tyler Clippard pitched two perfect innings and Drew Storen finished after walking Wright to start the ninth for his 35th save in 40 chances.
The Mets rallied late for the third straight game only to come up short again. They have lost five of six.
Manager Terry Collins thinks his team is distracted by the controversy that has been brewing since Sunday, when players wanted to wear caps honoring emergency-service workers during the game on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, but were denied by Major League Baseball.
“What’s the attention been since we walked into the ballpark today? It’s not on who we’re playing, it’s not on who’s pitching. We all want to know which kind of hat we’re going to wear tonight. And that takes away from the game,” Collins said. “It all takes away from their preparation. They’re all being asked questions that they’re afraid to make an answer, they’re afraid to say the wrong thing. We’ve got to start focusing on what the game is, because, when it’s all said and done, that’s all that matters.”
In contrast to his last start — six runs allowed against the Mets on Sept. 2, Detwiler was cruising until he lost the strike zone in the sixth and walked Justin Turner and Lucas Duda with two outs.
Wright followed with an RBI single and Angel Pagan doubled in another run with a soft liner down the right-field line to tie it 2-all and end Detwiler’s night.
“Kind of lost touch of my fastball,” Detwilier said. “I really wanted to finish the inning, but it was Coffey time.”
Coffey couldn’t sprint in from the bullpen fast enough, and he struck out Jason Bay with runners on second and third to end the inning. Bay, the NL player of the week, had another shot with one out in the ninth but struck out looking.
The Nationals regained the lead in the top of the seventh but ran themselves out of a chance to add on.
Ramos walked and advanced on Dickey’s second wild pitch of the game. He moved up on a groundout, then broke for home on Brian Bixler’s grounder to shortstop.
Instead of forcing a play at the plate, he froze halfway down the line and was tagged out by Wright. Lombardozzi then lined his first big league hit, coming in his sixth game. He was 0 for 15 — including going hitless in his first three at-bats Monday — before lining a clean single to left. Lombardozzi was called up from Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday.
“It was fitting that it happened that way,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He won’t remember the 0 for 15.”
While Bixler was running home, Lombardozzi took a wide turn to try and force the Mets to cut off the relay. He was caught in a rundown and tagged out by Duda.
Detwiler appeared to be on the way to his first road win in 12 career starts over four partial seasons — the 25-year-old has received only 17 runs of support when he is in the game during that stretch. But he lasted only 5 2-3 innings, giving up three hits and three walks.
Dickey could not extend his winning streak to four straight games even though he gave up three runs — two earned — in seven innings. Dickey has not allowed more than three earned runs in 10 straight starts.
“I gave up a couple of two-out hits. I think one of them was with two strikes and, a lot of times in a game like that, it’s going to come back to haunt you, and it did,” he said.
NOTES: The game took 2 hours, 41 minutes. … Mets longtime public relations director Jay Horwitz had surgery on his broken right ankle. The team said he was resting comfortably. … Nationals OF Corey Brown stayed back in Washington because the team doctors fear he has a staph infection in his knee. … Mets RHP Dillon Gee (12-6) faces Nationals RHP Chien-Ming Wang (2-3) on Tuesday — “Star Wars” night at Citi Field.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)