WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy committed the first of his two errors ahead of a three-run homer surrendered by Jeremy Hefner to Adam LaRoche and the Mets ultimately lost to Washingtion, 5-3, at Nationals Park on Wednesday. Three outs from claiming first place only two days, the Mets now occupy fourth place in the congested NL East, with the Subway Series looming this weekend.
The Mets now send R.A. Dickey (8-1, 2.38 ERA) to the mound in the matinee series finale, trying to salvage a game. Dickey opposes right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (1-1, 6.43), who like Johan Santana and Chris Young has returned from the surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder.
Thursday's news reports:
• Murphy, who also missed an opportunity to turn a double play in the first game of the series, which contributed to a costly run scoring, described second base as a work in progress.
• Jason Bay was activated from the DL on Wednesday. Pedro Beato rejoined the Mets as well, after holding opponents scoreless in his final 8 2/3 innings with Triple-A Buffalo. Neither appeared in last night's game. To clear room, Chris Young was placed on paternity leave. That frees a roster spot for three days between starts. Josh Satin was designated for assignment to clear both 25- and 40-man roster spots, the latter of which Beato required. Satin must clear waivers to be returned to Buffalo. Bay will start Thursday's series finale in D.C. Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger, Daily News, Newsday and Record.
• Ike Davis reached base three times Wednesday -- on two walks and an opposite-field double. It was timely production, since Terry Collins offered no assurances the first base job is Davis' for the long haul. “I know I am a good baseball player. Everybody goes through tough times -- maybe not as hard as I am, but everybody [slumps]," Davis told Wayne Coffey in the Daily News. "It’s going to get better. I know I’m not going to play like this my entire career. I just keep working at it, treating every day like it’s a new day.”
• Savannah right-hander Logan Verrett, the Mets' third-round pick last year from Baylor, took a no-hit bid one out into the sixth inning before surrendering a bunt single. With Buffalo, Jeurys Familia tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings. Zack Wheeler pitches for Binghamton tonight. Read Wednesday's full minor league recap here.
• MLB completed the draft with Rounds 16 through 40 on Wednesday afternoon. View the Mets' final-day selections here. Murphy's brother Jonathan, also a product of Jacksonville University, was drafted in the 19th round by the Minnesota Twins. Read more in Newsday.
• Ruben Tejada (quadriceps) was headed back to New York on Wednesday to again be examined by team doctors, a day after pulling himself from a rehab start with Buffalo.
• The weekend Subway Series matchups in the Bronx ...
Friday: Santana (3-2, 2.38) vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda (4-6, 3.82)
Saturday: Dillon Gee (4-3, 4.48) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (5-5, 4.96)
Sunday: Jon Niese (4-2, 4.11) vs. LHP Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.78)
• Mike Nickeas, who as a minor leaguer caught Dickey in Texas when both were with that organization, told Jeff Bradley in the Star-Ledger: “He was nothing like what he is now. It’s hard to describe what I saw, but it was inspiring and painstaking, the amount of work he put into honing his craft. And it’s not like he’s stopped working. Even now, as good as he throws it, he’s still working on it.”
Writes Brian Costa in the Journal regarding Dickey:
He has just completed a calendar year of pitching that puts him among the league's elite arms. Since the start of June 2011, Dickey is 14-8. His 2.72 ERA over that span is the sixth lowest in the N.L., and his 214 2/3 innings are tied for the seventh most. The pitchers he was tied with (entering Wednesday): Roy Halladay and Madison Bumgarner. The pitcher with the closest ERA to Dickey's over that span: Cole Hamels. "If you take the name out from the statistic and ask 10 people, 'Whose numbers are whose?' See if they can tell you," Dickey said. The first pitcher that comes to mind is probably not the bearded, 37-year-old knuckleballer in Flushing. But that may change if Dickey keeps pitching this way.
Costa adds that Dickey is being paid below market value. By one sabermetric calculator, the knuckleballer already has been worth $6.1 million this year, while his 2012 salary is $4.25 million.
• Jeff Roberts in the Record talks with Dwight Gooden about competing in the Subway Series.
• The Mets visited wounded servicemen at the Bethesda Naval Hospital on Wednesday morning. Regarding that visit, columnist Kevin Kernan writes in the Post:
Collins told the story of a soldier who was an IED (improvised explosive device) sweeper. “He said he swept a school that wasn’t very big and said he found 47 IEDs that they had put in the school. The next day he was set to head out on another assignment and one little kid walked up to him and thanked him so that he could go back to school.’’ The wounded soldier told Collins he would go back and do it all over again. That soldier, Collins said, “was shot through the side, has had over 25 surgeries and was put in a three-week medically induced coma so he could get through the surgeries. We have no idea.’’ No, we don’t.
TRIVIA: Whom did the Mets acquire when they traded Armando Benitez to the Yankees?
Wednesday's answer: Young played baseball and basketball at Princeton.