Published April 09, 2010
NEW YORK (AP) — Willie Harris made a game-ending diving catch to yet again thwart a Mets rally, well-traveled Willy Taveras drove in a career-high four runs and the Washington Nationals beat New York 4-3 on a blustery Saturday.
Taveras singled and tripled in his first start for the Nationals, who signed him to a minor league contract in February after Oakland let him go. The A's had acquired him about a week earlier from Cincinnati, making it three teams in less than a month.
John Lannan (1-1) teetered on the brink of disaster for the second straight start, giving up three runs in five erratic innings, before Tyler Clippard set down nine of the 10 batters he faced in relief. Clippard matched a career high with seven strikeouts.
Matt Capps made the ninth inning an adventure, giving up a leadoff single to Jose Reyes and eventually loading the bases on a pair of walks. Rod Barajas pinch hit and lined a hard shot to left, but Willie Harris came on at a dead run and made a diving grab to end the game.
It was Capps' second save of the season.
And it was the third time Harris helped save a game against the Mets. In 2007, with Atlanta, he leaped above the wall to rob Carlos Delgado of a tying homer in the ninth and in '08 he robbed Ryan Church of extra bases with a diving grab in the ninth to maintain Washington's 1-0 lead.
The intrepid New York fans who came out on a chilly, windy April afternoon didn't have much to cheer about besides Reyes, and even that stopped once the game began.
The All-Star shortstop was in the lineup for the first time since May 20, after a stubborn hamstring injury required surgery last season and a hyperactive thyroid kept him out part of spring training. He went 1 for 4 from the leadoff spot and didn't fare much better in the field, committing an error in the sixth when he whiffed on a liner right at him.
Mets starter Oliver Perez (0-1) was his typical, mercurial self, setting Washington down in order in the first inning before running into trouble in the second. Perez allowed a one-out single to Josh Willingham, issued a two-out walk to Ivan Rodriguez, then watch Taveras scorch a liner into the gap in left-center to make it 2-0.
New York loaded the bases in its half of the second, and Henry Blanco drove in a run with a sacrifice fly before Perez hit an RBI blooper into left that evened the score.
The Mets loaded the bases again the next inning, but the kind of luck that seemed to follow them all last season bit again. Jeff Francoeur nubbed a pitch into the dirt in front of the plate, and Rodriguez popped forward from his crouch to grab the ball, step on the plate and fire to first for the rare 2-2-3 double play.
Taveras struck again in the fourth after Perez loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a base hit by Ian Desmond. The speedy outfielder knocked a crisp, one-out single into center field to make it 4-2 and run Perez out of the game.
The Mets chased Lannan with a run in the fifth, but they couldn't figure out the Nationals bullpen, which had allowed 20 hits and 14 earned runs in 19 innings their first four games.
It was only the second time Washington held an opponent to fewer than six runs.
Perez, booed mercilessly by the crowd of 33,044, wound up allowing four runs on four hits in 5 2-3 innings, with six strikeouts offset by four walks.
NOTES: Washington 3B Ryan Zimmerman left the game as a precaution in the sixth inning with a tight left hamstring. ... The Nationals plan to activate former Mets RHP Livan Hernandez to start the series finale Sunday. ... The Mets optioned SS Ruben Tejada to Triple-A Buffalo to create a roster spot for Reyes. ... Actress Julia Stiles threw out the ceremonial first pitch.