The Tuesday Takeaway
After five innings of last night’s series opener between the Mets and Nationals, the home team led 3-0 and the game story was simple: Jordan Zimmermann outshines Chris Young in Young’s 2012 debut, as Washington extends its NL East lead. That last clause still rang true at the end of the 12-inning marathon, but by the time the Nats walked off with a 7-6 win, the beat writers in the Nationals Park press box had written, backspaced, written, backspaced, and written again.

The Mets homered twice in the top of the sixth inning, saddling Zimmermann—who had allowed only two home runs in his first seven starts—with his sixth and seventh gopher balls in four outings since. Then, Sean Burnett and Craig Stammen teamed up in the top of the eighth for the first of three blown saves by the two bullpens, allowing the visitors to pull ahead 4-3, before Tim Byrdak and Frank Francisco coughed up a run in the bottom half of the frame.

As the game went into extra innings, vilified flame-thrower Henry Rodriguez was in line to be the goat again, when he uncorked a wild pitch past crossed-up catcher Jesus Flores to help the Mets pull ahead 5-4 in the top of the 10th. But rookie shortstop Jordany Valdespin couldn't let that happen, so he took matters into his own hands, committing two fielding errors that resulted in the Nats’ tying run off Bobby Parnell.

That set the stage for lefty masher extraordinaire Scott Hairston to be the hero, with Ross Detwiler on the mound for Washington. Right on cue, Hairston whacked his fifth homer since May 26, improving his season line against southpaws to a remarkable .361/.400/.770, and putting New York ahead 6-5.

Ballgame, right? Not so fast.

The Nationals had planted a dissenter on the Mets’ roster in former Rule 5 pick Elvin Ramirez, whom they plucked in 2010 and returned last October. With his relief corps running thin, manager Terry Collins left a laboring Ramirez on the mound for 47 pitches, hoping that the former starter could preserve the tie after giving up the lead on back-to-back doubles to start the inning. But that 47th pitch—a 96 mph fastball—proved fateful, as Bryce Harper lined it into left field to plate the winning run.

Four lead changes, four ledes, four hours and 15 minutes. Perhaps those poor beat writers should have seen it all coming. These are Bryce Harper’s first-place Nationals, after all.

What to Watch for on Wednesday

  • Giants fans were giddy about Madison Bumgarner’s outstanding 99-to-19 K/BB ratio after the All-Star break last year, so his 18-to-7 mark this April was an unexpected disappointment. The lefty has found a groove since then, though, racking up 41 strikeouts against only six walks in his last six starts. In today’s mid-afternoon contest at Petco Park (6:35 p.m. ET), Bumgarner will be tasked with slowing down Carlos Quentin, who did this and this in a 6-5 Padres win last night, and has now done things like that five times while notching an incredible 31 total bases in 23 at-bats since his San Diego debut on May 28.
  • The Tigers came into their midweek series with the Indians in third place, trailing Cleveland by 3 ½ games and first-place Chicago by six. But after a 4-2 loss to the scuffling Ubaldo Jimenez last night, Jim Leyland’s team is now in danger of falling further behind and wasting an opportunity to batter Manny Acta’s Tribe, which had lost seven of nine before the trip to Comerica Park. Fortunately, Max Scherzer is scheduled to start for Detroit tonight (7:05 p.m. ET), and the Tigers have won each of the hard-throwing righty’s past five starts. Jeanmar Gomez, who has coughed up 11 runs in 10 2/3 innings over his last two outings, will take the hill for the Indians.
  • If you forget everything that has happened during the last five years and only look at 2012, the Pirates’ decision to take Brad Lincoln with the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft, over the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum, is defensible. In 14 appearances (one start) to date, Lincoln has pitched 26 innings and logged a 26-to-8 K/BB ratio, which in turn has led to a tidy 1.04 ERA. The 27-year-old will make his second start of the season and the 19th of his career against the Reds tonight (7:10 p.m. ET), as the suddenly surging Pirates try to move to within a game of the division lead.
  • Last night’s 9-5 Blue Jays win over the White Sox was Colby Rasmus’ 474th big-league game, and he had recorded only three four-hit efforts in the previous 473, with five-hit nights proving entirely elusive. Not anymore: The 25-year-old center fielder went 5-for-5 against Philip Humber and co. on Tuesday, while delivering his fourth home run in his last nine games. In order to stay hot, Rasmus will need to overcome his persistent struggles against left-handed pitching, with rookie Jose Quintana toeing the rubber for Chicago tonight (8:10 p.m. ET). Rasmus is just 9-for-53 against southpaws this year and owns a lowly .210/.288/.354 triple slash against them in 404 career at-bats.

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Great to hear the voice of the ageless Dick Enberg.