Defensive gems save day for Nats
Harris, Boone, Guzman deliver in narrow win over Mets
NEW YORK -- After their 1-0 victory over the Mets on Thursday afternoon, the Nationals mostly talked about their defensive gems that saved the game the last two innings. In fact, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was shaking his head about the ninth inning alone.
"I'm usually calm and even keel," Zimmerman said. "But I was a little excited about that ninth inning. It was a fun game."
The defensive heroics started in the eighth. With reliever Luis Ayala on the mound, Jose Reyes led off with a bunt single. Luis Castillo followed and bunted the ball toward Zimmerman, who was able to throw Castillo out at first.
Reyes then saw that nobody was covering third and ran toward the base. But Guzman was alert. The moment he saw Reyes touch second base, Guzman ran toward third. With Reyes running behind him, Guzman had the foresight of catching Aaron Boone's throw from first base and tagging Reyes behind his back.
"I saw third base open there, and I thought in my mind, I had a good chance to make it," Reyes said. "They just made it perfect right there. It was a perfect throw, and that's why they got me. It was bad luck in that situation. There was nothing we could do about it. Everything went perfect for them."
On April 3, the Nationals were burned by a similar play as Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins went from first to third on a bunt play and was able to score the winning run. Guzman vowed that would not happen again.
"Zimmerman and Flores were close together at home plate, so it was my job to go to third," Guzman said. "I went there and Boone made a good throw. I just raised my hand and touched somebody."
Boone was like a quarterback on the play. He had to make sure his throw was perfect while Guzman was on the run.
"I looked up and Reyes was going," Boone said. "Cristian did a great job of being aware and staying ahead. He flashed his glove. I was able to complete my first pass of my career, and he got his first reception of his career, and we got the out."
In the ninth, Willie Harris made the play of the game. Closer Jon Rauch entered and gave up a leadoff single to Carlos Beltran. Ryan Church was the next hitter. The Nationals outfielders were playing him to pull the ball to right field, but Church hit the ball near the left-field line.
Harris, who was playing left-center field, ran a long way and made a great diving catch for the first out of the inning.
"I got a good read on it," Harris said. "I had no idea I was going to catch it. I just ran after it as if I was going to catch it. The ball stayed up long enough and I was able to make a play."
Said manager Manny Acta: "Willie Harris basically won the game for us."
Boone said he is not a fan of ESPN's Web Gems segment on "Baseball Tonight," because they tend to show outfielders make easy catches look hard. But he wants to see Harris' catch on the show.
"That catch was unbelievable," Boone said. "I had a great view of it, too. I could see the ball coming down and I could see him coming into the picture. I said, 'Oh, no. He is not [catching that].' He just put his cape on and went flying for it. It was an unbelievable play."
When Harris entered the clubhouse after the game, he was greeted by a bunch of cheers.
"When it comes to me, personally, they do that because I'm the little party starter-type of guy," Harris said. "I make everybody laugh, so I think they did that for me, personally."
It looked as if the Mets were going to tie the game in the ninth. After Harris' catch, Beltran stole second and went to third on an error by catcher Jesus Flores. But the game suddenly ended when Carlos Delgado lined out to Boone, who threw to Zimmerman to double up Beltran at third base. Beltran made no attempt to run back to third base.
Acta said Beltran did not make a mistake by running home.
"It's not actually a running gaffe," the skipper said. "He was probably running on contact with the infield in and we got the break."
Said Boone: "If I'm a couple of feet back, that ball hits the ground. So it wasn't an automatic line drive. It was kind of low and kind of hooking a little bit. And when you are going on contact, you have to get going. He got too far and went in no man's land. It was an easy double play."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.