At least the Mets aren’t getting kicked around by the Giants and Dodgers anymore.
Welcome to the so-called underbelly of the schedule, the Nationals, who (along with the Marlins) theoretically represent a chance for the Mets to build momentum and at least make September interesting.
But on Friday, these stripped-down Nats might as well have been the NL West powerhouses from Los Angeles and San Francisco that frustrated the Mets for the last two weeks. With their bats dead, the Mets lost 2-1 at Citi Field for a fourth straight defeat and 19th in 25 games.
The Mets (61-67) managed four hits and only one after Javier Baez’s homer in the fourth inning. In the three-game sweep against the Giants to begin this homestand, the Mets scored four runs total.
For the Mets, this was the first of 15 straight games against the Nationals and Marlins (two teams that began Friday a combined 41 games below .500). The Mets finished 2-11 against the Dodgers and Giants, sending their season into a tailspin — the Braves held a 7 ¹/₂-game lead on them in the NL East as play began.
Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith combined for seven strikeouts against right-hander Paolo Espino and the Washington bullpen. Jeff McNeil’s bloop single in the eighth snapped a string of 13 straight Mets batters retired.
Kyle Finnegan got Baez to hit into a game-ending double play after Pete Alonso had walked leading off the ninth and Francisco Lindor hit into a fielder’s choice, forcing Alonso out at second.
Rich Hill kept the Mets close by allowing two earned runs on five hits with eight strikeouts over five innings. The strikeout total was Hill’s largest in his seven starts for the Mets.
Hill’s only sluggish inning was the third, when he loaded the bases with nobody out and allowed two runs. Juan Soto brought in the first run with a ground out and Josh Bell’s RBI single gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead. The lefty recovered to strike out Carter Kieboom and Lane Thomas, leaving the runner at third base stranded. The Nationals’ rally started with a leadoff single from the pitcher, Espino. Victor Robles was then hit by a pitch before Alcides Escobar’s single loaded the bases.
Baez’s homer in the fourth sliced the Mets’ deficit to 2-1. The blast was his 25th of the season and third since joining the Mets at the trade deadline. Baez entered 5-for-15 (.333) since returning from the injured list with back spasms.
Lindor brought energy to the ballpark in the first inning with a two-out triple, but Baez struck out to strand him. Tomas Nido’s single leading off the third was also wasted.