Harper's HR hurts Mets' NLDS home-field bid

Harper's HR hurts Mets' NLDS home-field bid

NEW YORK -- On a cold, soggy Saturday in Flushing, home-field advantage continued its slow slide away from the Mets.

Bryce Harper's two-run, upper-deck homer off Addison Reed snapped an eighth-inning tie at Citi Field, where the Nationals scored a 3-1 victory over the Mets in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader. The Mets' loss dropped them a full game behind the Dodgers, their National League Division Series opponent, in the race for home-field advantage. Both teams have two games remaining, one apiece on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon; if they finish with identical records, the Mets hold the tiebreaker due to their 4-3 head-to-head record.

Explaining possible tiebreakers for postseason

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"The biggest thing is to find the edge again that we had two weeks ago," Mets manager Terry Collins said, adding that he has spoken to his team about it twice in recent days. "Winning and losing is not the issue right now. We're going to party on here. We're playing Friday. I don't care where it's at. But we've got to get the edge back."

Syndergaard strikes out 10

The Mets' defeat came despite the efforts of starter Noah Syndergaard, who struck out 10 over seven innings of one-run ball in his final postseason tuneup. Electric from the start, Syndergaard retired the first six batters he faced, then another 11 straight from the third through sixth innings. The Nationals did not break through for their first run until Clint Robinson led off the seventh with a homer.

Robinson's solo blast

Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez delivered six scoreless innings despite battling through considerably more trouble than Syndergaard all afternoon.

"We're not swinging very good," Collins said. "We haven't swung very good in four games. That's one of the things we're looking at, certainly ... we've got to get our offense going."

Gonzalez's strong final start

Harper: By hitting his 42nd home run, Harper is one RBI shy of driving in his 100th of the year. Harper has a chance to become the first member of the Nationals to drive in 100 runs since Adam LaRoche did the trick in 2012.

Botched around the bag: The Mets had a chance to turn an inning-ending double play before Harper came to bat in the eighth, but Daniel Murphy botched the ball that Yunel Escobar hit in his direction at second base. Murphy did recover in time to force out the lead runner, but Ruben Tejada's subsequent throw sailed well wide of first base. Escobar reached on a fielder's choice, bringing Harper to the plate with two outs.

"I just misplayed it," Murphy said.

Escobar extends the inning

den Dekker makes great catch: In the third inning with runners on first and second, Nationals right fielder Matt den Dekker made a great running catch off the bat of Murphy. The catch prevented at least one run from scoring in the inning.

"I got a good read off the bat. I'm trying to make a play for Gio. It worked out for us," den Dekker said. "It's fun being out there, playing in front of my old team I was with."

den Dekker's great running grab

Tying things at Juan: With a game-tying RBI single off Matt Grace in the seventh, Juan Lagares snapped a 23-inning scoreless streak for the Mets. That plated Lucas Duda, who opened the inning with a walk off the first man out of Washington's bullpen, Blake Treinen.

Lagares' RBI single

"We prefer to pitch at home, open up at home, just because we have the best fans in baseball."
-- Syndergaard, on the Mets' chase for home-field advantage in the NLDS

Syndergaard finished with 166 strikeouts, the fifth most for a Mets rookie, while his mark of 9.96 strikeouts per nine innings ranks second only to Dwight Gooden in 1984. Syndergaard's 1.05 WHIP is a franchise rookie record.

Yoenis Cespedes appeared in the starting lineup for the first time since Wednesday, when an errant Justin De Fratus pitch bruised the middle and ring fingers of his left hand. Cespedes finished 1-for-3 with a single and a walk.

Harper was hit by a pitch thrown by Syndergaard in the sixth inning. Harper went down in pain for a few seconds before heading to first base. He wasn't in the starting lineup for the second game of the doubleheader because of the injury.

"It feels like [Syndergaard] threw the pitch threw me. Not very fun getting hit on the shin," Harper said.

Harper gets hit by pitch

Nationals: Max Scherzer will pitch Game 2 for the Nationals at 7:10 p.m. ET tonight. In his last start, Scherzer won his 13th game of the season on Monday vs. the Reds, carrying a no-hitter into the 8th. He is one of three pitchers in the Majors to have at least 10 starts of 10-plus strikeouts this season. Scherzer also went 2-for-3 at the plate.

Mets: Game 2 of the doubleheader will feature Matt Harvey, who will not undertake a full workload in his final start of the regular season. The Mets tentatively have Harvey slotted to start NLDS Game 3.

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Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.