WASHINGTON -- The Mets made one thing clear to the Nationals on Tuesday night: They are going to be tough to deal with in the National League East. But Washington prevailed, 7-6, on a walk-off single by Bryce Harper in the 12th inning at Nationals Park.
"Wild game. It wasn't a very well-played game, but it was nice to come out on top," manager Davey Johnson said.
The Nationals were down, 6-5, when they rallied in the 12th against reliever Elvin Ramirez. With no outs, Ian Desmond doubled to left field, scoring Michael Morse, who led off the frame with a double. Four batters later, the bases were loaded, and Harper hit an 0-2 pitch to left field, scoring Jesus Flores.
"I knew [Ramirez] didn't want to walk me, so I knew he was going to come over the plate, but I got a pitch I could handle and threw my hands at it," Harper said. "It was a good 'W' tonight. That was huge. The Mets are a great team. They are playing well right now. Everybody in the NL East is playing well. It's still early, but to stay in first place, it's good for us. I think coming out with the 'W' tonight is huge."
It was Harper's first career walk-off hit. He became the first teenager since Gary Sheffield, on Sept. 9, 1988, to have a walk-off base hit.
"He has been unbelievable since he has been here," Johnson said about Harper. "Almost every time up, a quality at-bat. [The opposing] teams pitch him tough," Johnson said.
Said Mets catcher Josh Thole about Harper: "He's a good player, no question about it. He's one of those guys where you can't take for granted when he puts the ball in play. That's in the back of everybody's mind, how hard he runs the bases. The pitchers have to get over to first base to cover the base. If the ball gets to the outfield, it has to get back into the infield. Little things like that, and he's only 19, so as he gets older, he'll probably get even better."
Don't think for one minute that Harper is satisfied with what he accomplished in the game on Tuesday night. He was not happy that he struck out twice in the game.
"I'm pretty [upset] that I went 2-for-7," Harper said. "I'm happy with the 'W,' of course, and I'm happy to get that walk-off hit. But I don't like to go 2-for-7. I don't like striking out twice in one game, either."
With the win, the Nationals are in sole possession of first place in the NL East with a 31-22 record.
Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was solid, lasting six innings, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out five batters. He started the game by retiring 12 out of the first 14 hitters he faced.
"I was just attacking hitters and mixing all the pitches," Zimmermann said. "I was able to get some quick outs on the ground-ball double play. I was kind of breezing through the first couple innings there, and then the sixth just kind of hurt a little bit."
Zimmermann was given a 3-0 lead after five innings -- all of the runs coming against Mets right-hander Chris Young.
In the third inning, Harper drove in the first run of the game when he singled to left field, scoring Danny Espinosa.
Two innings later, Washington scored two more runs. With runners on first and second, Ryan Zimmerman singled up the middle scoring Zimmermann. On the same play, Steve Lombardozzi scored on an error by shortstop Omar Quintanilla to make it a 3-0 game.
But the Mets would make it a one-run game in the top of the sixth inning off Zimmermann. Jordany Valdespin and David Wright both homered
The Nationals' bullpen has been solid all year, but it had a hiccup on this day. With a 3-2 lead going into the top of the eighth inning, the Washington bullpen couldn't hold it. With runners on first and second and one out, Andre Torres doubled to center field, scoring Valdespin and Scott Hairston to give the Mets a one-run lead.
But the Nationals would tie the score at 4 in the bottom of the inning off Frank Francisco. With two outs, Desmond singled to right field, scoring Zimmerman.
Desmond ended up driving in three runs in the game.
"He has been that kind of guy all year long," Johnson said about Desmond. "He got some big hits. Whether it's leading off, wherever he is at, he likes to be in those situations."
New York rallied in the 10th inning. With a runner on third and one out, Nationals reliever Henry Rodriguez threw a wild pitch, which scored Hairston.
But Washington would tie the score in the bottom of the inning against Bobby Parnell. With runners on first and third and one out, Desmond hit a perfect double-play ball to shortstop Valdespin, who let the ball go under his glove, allowing Zimmerman to score and tie the game at 5.
Hairston led off the 12th by hitting a 3-2 pitch from Ross Detwiler -- Washington's last available pitcher -- over the left-field wall for his eighth home run of the season.
Had the game continued, Johnson told first baseman Adam LaRoche to prepare to pitch. LaRoche was a pitcher when he was in high school.
"The one good thing was, I asked LaRoche, "If I have to use [Jhonatan] Solano to tie the game, can you pitch for me?' He said he would be happy to," Johnson said. "I said, 'You are not going to hurt your arm.' He said, 'No, I won't be throwing that hard anyway.' But thank goodness, [the game ended] before I had to make that decision."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.