#Nats fall back below .500 with one game left before the All-Star Game!

Adam Eaton did his part but couldn’t keep the Nats from losing this one. Photo by Jim Osborn for TalkNats

Well, spot starter Austin Voth tried his best in his major league debut today, but it just didn’t work out. A flurry of singles in the second inning made it a 3-0 game early, and then the New York Mets poured on four more in the fifth inning as the rookie appeared to hit the wall hard.

It could have played out differently. After a couple bounceback innings, long reliever Wander Suero was ready to go, and it looked like Dave Martinez was set to pinch-hit for Voth in the top of the fifth inning. But Spencer Kieboom struck out looking and it was back to work for Voth. He struck out Brandon Nimmo for the second time but then lost the plate, walking two batters as Martinez looked on from the dugout, then giving up a three-run homer by Michael Conforto, then three straight singles before the skipper roused himself at last and made the walk out to the mound.

The Washington Nationals offense made a late push, with an RBI single by Bryce Harper in the sixth, then an RBI groundout by Anthony Rendon followed shortly by a two-run home run by Matt Adams in the eighth. The bullpen was excellent, as Suero did not allow a baserunner in his 2⅔ innings of work (although he fanned in his major league debut as a hitter) and Matt Grace struck out two in his only inning. But Mets closer Jeurys Familia slammed the door in the 7-4 contest, and the Nats now face a situation in which the best they can hope for in this four-game series is a split.

Harper did come through today to bat in one of the Nats’ four runs, a day after his failure to run out a double-play groundball caused controversy, but he also struck out twice. Adam Eaton led the Nats with three of their eight hits, including a double.

As usual, the Nats had their chances, but Mets starter Zack Wheeler deserves credit for an excellent seven innings marred by the three runs the Nats marshaled against him in the eighth. The Nats struggled to solve Wheeler until it was too late to climb back out of the hole that Voth and Martinez’s management of the 26-year-old rookie left them in.

The Nats are now 47-48 and will look to Jeremy Hellickson tomorrow to do what he can to ensure they don’t have a losing record when they host the MLB All-Star Game at Nationals Park on Tuesday. They are 6½ games back in the NL East, as the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies lost today to fall to 53-41.

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