WASHINGTON -- Ryan Zimmerman's home run in the ninth inning helped the Nationals edge the Mets, 2-1, in the second game of a day-night doubleheader on Friday at Nationals Park. Washington was pounded by New York in the afternoon affair, 11-0.
The second game was tied at 1 when Washington scored the winning run against LaTroy Hawkins. With one out, Zimmerman swung at a 3-1 pitch and hit the ball over the right-field wall for his 12th home run of the season.
"Three and one, you don't want to walk him right there," Hawkins said. "He hit the ball to the opposite field, you tip your hat to him."
As Zimmerman came home, Ian Desmond poured Gatorade on his teammates during the celebration.
"Just worked into a good count. I just finally didn't try to do too much. Good win," Zimmerman said. "That's baseball. Unfortunately, it's a roller-coaster ride, and we've been down more than we've been up this year. But we've just got to keep going. Nobody's going to feel sorry for us. We've got to go out there every day and try to win."
Like the first game, the Nationals were held in check offensively. Mets right-hander Matt Harvey pitched eight innings and allowed an unearned run on five hits and struck out seven batters. The Nationals scored their first run of the game in the fifth inning, when Jayson Werth scored on a throwing error by New York second baseman Daniel Murphy.
In need of a starter for the second game, the Nationals gave the ball to reliever Ross Ohlendorf and he was outstanding, pitching seven innings and allowing one run on six hits. The run scored in the fourth inning, when Josh Satin scored on a double by John Buck.
"Exceptional," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He pitched his heart out, he was basically out of gas in the last inning, but I had more confidence in him locating the ball and changing speeds to get through it. I think he ended up throwing 114 [pitches]."
Ohlendorf was an afterthought when Spring Training started. Now it looks like he will be an integral part of the pitching staff. He will go back to being a long reliever and then most likely will become a starter again when Taylor Jordan is shut down. Jordan is on an innings limit after having Tommy John surgery in 2011.
"I certainly feel good about what I've done when I've gotten to start," Ohlendorf said. "I feel good with how I've done out of the bullpen, too. I've been really happy with how I've been pitching. I just need to keep going."
Asked if he would like to be a starter or reliever, Ohlendorf said, "I will do whatever Davey wants me to do. The one thing I feel that has helped me this year is really playing for the team, doing what the manager needs me to do. Whenever I've had the long-relief opportunities, I've taken pride in saving the rest of the bullpen. I feel I've done more in that role. As of now, I'm going back to that role."
Most of the postgame talk was about reliever Drew Storen, who was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse after the game. The Nationals thought about ending Jordan's season instead of demoting Storen, but the team decided against it.
"There [were] different ways we could go," Johnson said. "Put [Ohlendorf] in the rotation, hold off on Jordan, hold off on his innings, that was one of the options. The other was to send Drew out, but [we'll let] the kid pitch some more, and when we've got to shut him down, we'll shut him down."
Storen wasn't available for comment, but his best friend, Tyler Clippard was not happy about Storen's demotion. Clippard went so far as to say the Nationals sent the wrong message by signing Rafael Soriano to a two-year deal this offseason. The Nationals signed Soriano after Storen blew Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals.
"I think there are a lot of things that led to this that could've been prevented," an emotional Clippard said. "You know, you basically send a guy a message this offseason for having one bad game, that he's not the guy for the job. He's only human. I mean, it's going to get to anybody.
"He hasn't had to deal with a lot of adversity. He came up and had unbelievable stuff. He had success right away. He came in last year, coming off of a surgery, and pitched huge games for us in a 98-win season, picked me up when I was struggling in September, picked our team up in the playoffs, had one bad game. You know, eight months later, you get to a point where he's struggling and you turn the page on him, you send him down. It's not necessarily turning the page on him because I think he needs to go down and regroup, get out of this environment, take a deep breath and regather himself."
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.