WASHINGTON -- Carlos Beltran is supposed to deliver the big hits for the New York Mets. After all, he's the All-Star with the $119 million contract.
He certainly came through Sunday night, going 3-for-5 with two doubles, but it was some of the Mets' less-heralded players who engineered the three-run ninth inning that capped a 6-3 comeback victory over the Washington Nationals.
Eric Valent, making just his fifth start, led off that inning against Luis Ayala (1-1) with a single. Marlon Anderson, quickly becoming a pinch-hitter extraordinaire, followed with a broken-bat blooper, making him 7-for-13 off the bench. Miguel Cairo punctuated his own rare start with the go-ahead sacrifice fly.
Then up came Beltran, who did what he's expected to, hitting a shot over left fielder Ryan Church's head and to the base of the wall to bring home the last two runs.
"I can't say enough about my bench. They've been doing a good job all year. That's why I like to get them in the game," said Mets manager Willie Randolph, whose team trailed 3-1.
"I'm always surprised every time I make a change, everyone wants to know, 'Why?' They're a part of my team. These guys are ready to contribute, ready to play."
Coming off four straight losses in which the Mets scored a total of 11 runs, Randolph tinkered with his lineup, inserting Valent for Victor Diaz in the outfield, and Cairo for Kaz Matsui at second. The manager also put Cliff Floyd in the cleanup spot and dropped Mike Piazza to fifth for the second straight game.
Floyd went 2-for-5, with an RBI double, stretching his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest in the majors this season. Piazza went 0-for-4, New York's only starting position player without a hit, but he helped out by throwing out two runners. He caught just one of 21 base stealers before Sunday.
He got Nick Johnson at second in the fifth inning, and crucially, Cristian Guzman at third in the seventh.
Guzman led off that inning with a topper to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who lost his footing on the infield grass, and his flip to reliever Roberto Hernandez (2-0) covering first was late. It was ruled a hit.
Pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll bunted Guzman to second, bringing up the top of the order. But Guzman missed a sign and was thrown out at third.
"We really don't know how big a situation that was because we never had an opportunity," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.
His club also missed an opportunity to collect its second sweep of the young season. More significantly for the long term, Washington also lost the only left-hander on its pitching staff, reliever Joey Eischen. He'll have surgery Monday and is expected to miss eight to 12 weeks after breaking his right arm leaping off the mound to grab pinch-hitter Matsui's high chopper.
"That's a big blow to us," Robinson said. "We don't have many choices. We'll promote the person we think can do the job out of the bullpen, whether he's left-handed or right-handed."
Eischen is the team's third reliever to head to the DL in two weeks.
He threw just four pitches after coming on at the start of the seventh in relief of John Patterson, who had his shortest start of the season.
"I didn't have my best command, but I kept battling and kept giving the team chances," said Patterson, whose ERA rose from 0.98 to 1.60 after allowing three runs on six hits and three walks. "I felt fine. I wanted the seventh inning. I would have definitely liked to pitch that inning."
In his preceding three starts -- all at home -- he had allowed one run and 12 hits over 20 2/3 innings, striking out 17. But the Mets got to the right-hander quickly.
With one out in the first, singles put Cairo on third base and Beltran on first.
During the next at-bat, Patterson faked a pickoff throw to third, then wheeled toward first, catching Beltran off the bag.
As the pitcher ran toward Beltran, Cairo took off for home. He scored comfortably and Patterson threw to first to try to get Beltran, who then broke toward second. First baseman Johnson threw to shortstop Guzman, who dived and tagged out Beltran as the runner tried to get back to first.
Washington pulled ahead 3-1 in the third off Mets starter Aaron Heilman, with the big hit being Johnson's two-run single. Floyd's double and David Wright's RBI single tied the game at 3 in the fourth.
It stayed that way until the ninth, with Hernandez throwing two innings of scoreless, two-hit relief. Braden Looper pitched the bottom of the ninth, getting two quick outs before giving up a triple to Guzman and walking pinch-hitter Terrmel Sledge. But with Brad Wilkerson representing the tying run, Looper got him on a comebacker for his fourth save.
Heilman gave up three runs on four hits, with five walks and five strikeouts. ... Guzman has a nine-game hitting streak, lifting his average from .140 to .233.