It must have felt like a ton of bricks sitting on his chest. Steve Lombardozzi made his MLB debut seven days ago, but since then the player that made a name for himself in the minor leagues for his ability to get on base had done so just once, a walk in his first plate appearance, since his recall from AAA-Syracuse. His next 15 at bats ended in the same manner: with Lombo taking a right turn back to the dugout.
But all that ended in the seventh inning Monday night, as Lombardozzi sliced and opposite field single to drive in Brian Bixler with the go-ahead, and eventual, winning run in the Washington Nationals 3-2 win over the New York Mets, before 27,015 at Citi Field in Queens.
The Nats have now won three of their last four games, and with the win go to 68-77, just two games behind the Mets for third place in the division.
Lombardozzi, who was named the Nats 2011 Minor League Hitter of the Year last week, hit a combined .309/.360/.430 with eight home tuns and 30 stolen bases between Syracuse and AA-Harrisburg this season.
The rally made a winner of Todd Coffey, who pitched to one batter in the sixth, striking out Jason Bay, in relief of Ross Detwiler, who was cruising along until running into trouble in the bottom of the sixth. Detwiler retired the first tow batters of the inning, but then walked Justin Turner after a long at bat and then Lucas Duda on five pitches. A single by David Wright and a double from Angel Pagan scored two runs to tie the game and chased Detwiler.
The 25-year old lefty, who hadn't pitched in 10 days, went 5 2/3 innings and allowed just those two runs on three hits and three walks, striking out two. Up until two outs in the sixth, he'd only allowed one hit and one walk.
After Coffey did his job, Tyler Clippard threw two perfect innings and Drew Storen shut the door in the ninth for his 35th save of the season.
The Nats scored single runs in the fifth and sixth to take a short-lived 2-0 lead. Wilson Ramos plated Jayson Werth, who had doubled and taken third on a Wright error in the fifth, and Ryan Zimmerman scored on a Rick Ankiel RBI single in the sixth.
After one of their roughest stretches of the season, going 3-12 from Aug. 23 - Sept. 8, the Nats have righted ship a bit winning three of four. The elusive .500 mark is well out of reach, but catching the Mets for third place is certainly possible and the Nats are a mere four games (with 16 to play) from reaching their second-best win total since the move.
These goals aren't particularly lofty, but for a franchise that has finished out of last place once in the last six years, they are signs of slow, but steady, progress.
THE GOOD: Tyler Clippard. He's just not human. Two more perfect innings, lowering his ERA to 1.91 for the season. Jayson Werth went 3-for-4 and scored a run.
THE BAD: Brian Bixler led off and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, reaching only on a fielder's choice.
THE UGLY: Michael Morse. He went 0-for-4, striking out three times. He's hitless in his last nine at bats. What's the opposite of Beast Mode?
THE STATS: 10 hits, 0 BBs, 8 Ks. 3-for-10 w/RISP, 7 LOB, 0 GIDP. No errors.
NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 7:10 pm against the Mets. Chien-Ming Wang (2-3, 4.43) faces Dillon Gee (12-6, 4.42).