After the Mets failed to turn an inning-ending double play, Bryce Harper delivered a tiebreaking two-run homer against Addison Reed with two outs in the eighth, and the Washington Nationals beat the Mets 3-1 in the opener of a split doubleheader on Saturday at Citi Field.
The Mets (89-71) dropped a game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (90-70) for home-field advantage in the NLDS with two games remaining for each team. The Amazin's have the tiebreaker if the teams finish even by virtue of winning the season series.
Immediately before Harper’s 42nd homer, Yunel Escobar hit a would-be inning-ending-double-play grounder to second baseman Daniel Murphy. But Murphy flubbed the ball before recovering and retiring the lead runner at second base. The Mets still had time to turn the double play, but shortstop Ruben Tejada threw wide to Lucas Duda at first base as Escobar reached safely.
Reed had thrown 14 scoreless innings since joining the Mets in an Aug. 30 trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks before Harper’s long ball.
Harper had an eventful day. He was drilled in the left shin by a 97 mph fastball from Syndergaard in the sixth. He also was taunted by Mets fans who chanted “PA-PEL-BON, PA-PEL-BON” -- a reference to last weekend’s dugout choking incident involving now-suspended closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Syndergaard, the expected Game 2 starter in the division series, took a scoreless effort into the seventh inning in his final tuneup for the postseason before surrendering a leadoff homer to Clint Robinson.
Cuddyer is expected to start the bulk of the division series games in left field over the lefty-hitting Michael Conforto because the Mets will have a steady diet of southpaws against the Dodgers, with the exception of Zack Greinke.
With the no-decision, Syndergaard finished his rookie season with a 9-7 record and 3.24 ERA in 24 starts. He logged 179⅔ innings between the majors and minors -- a jump of 42⅔ innings over last season.
In his finale, Syndergaard allowed one run on two hits, a walk and a hit batter in seven innings. He threw 101 pitches. The lone hit against Syndergaard before Robinson’s homer came on a leadoff double by ex-Met Matt den Dekker in the third.
Niesely done: Jonathon Niese allowed a single and a walk in the ninth, but both Nats were erased on the basepaths. Niese was making his third relief appearance as he gets set for a bullpen role in the postseason.