Piazza drove in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning with his third hit, and the Mets handed the Nationals their first series loss at home since April by beating Washington 3-2 Thursday.
Returning from a night off, Piazza went 3-for-5 with two RBI, including the run-scoring single off Luis Ayala (7-5) that gave the Mets three wins in the four-game series. New York also snapped the Nationals' 12-game winning streak in one-run games, three shy of the major league record.
"I don't necessarily feel like the first day of spring, but I feel better," said Piazza, who tied Howard Johnson for second on the Mets' career RBI list with 629. "It's pitch selection. If I'm able to lay off the bad pitches, I'll get better swings."
Words the Nationals wish they had lived by Thursday -- and throughout this series. Washington entered the week having won six straight games overall and 15 of 16 at RFK Stadium.
But they managed only 10 runs against New York, repeatedly failing in the clutch.
"We had opportunities. All we had to do was take advantage and execute a little better in this series and we could have very easily won three of four ourselves," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.
His team put runners on first and third with one out in the second, but Marlon Byrd grounded into a double play. It got Matt Cepicky's leadoff double in the fifth, but starter Tony Armas Jr. failed to get a sacrifice down and fouled off a bunt attempt with two strikes -- even after Robinson came out to tell him not to worry about where the bunt went. Later in the inning, with the bases loaded and two out, Carlos Baerga hit a comebacker on a borderline 3-2 pitch.
Washington had runners at first and second with one out in the ninth, and failed to score. Jose Guillen, who was sick and only entered the game in the ninth, flied out, and Brad Wilkerson hit a check-swing grounder to third.
"It's an unfortunate situation where it hit the bat and went fair," Wilkerson said.
Typical of the way things went against the Mets for the Nationals, whose lead in the NL East is shrinking as they head into a series at division rival Philadelphia before next week's All-Star break.
"This will only be a lull if we go into Philadelphia and play the same way and get the same results," Robinson said. "You can lose three out of four, but it's what happens after that. Do you bounce back? Or do you continue to play the same way? We'll see."
With two on and one out in the 11th, Piazza lifted a blooper that fell in between second base and right field, scoring Carlos Beltran. Guillen threw home too late -- Robinson said that was the wrong play -- but catcher Brian Schneider threw to second to get Piazza. Shortstop Jamey Carroll threw back home to get Floyd at the plate to end the inning on a 9-2-6-2 double play.
The bottom of the 11th was delayed while Robinson argued with crew chief Joe West after the Mets sent Heath Bell (1-3) out to the mound to warm up, then replaced him with closer Braden Looper.
"He allowed them to stretch the rules to the limit," Robinson said.
Looper recorded the final three outs for his 20th save. Bell pitched two scoreless innings of one-hit ball for his first major league win.
"It's good to get that monkey off your back," Bell said. "It's definitely a confidence-booster, especially going into tight games in the future."
The Mets tied it at 2 in the fourth on Piazza's RBI double.
"Mike's always been a professional hitter, a clutch player. When people started calling for his head, I don't hear all that," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "Mike's got a track record. I hope he gets hot. He's been struggling a little bit."
New York's first run came in the first inning without a hit.
Armas walked Jose Reyes, who stole second, moved up on Cameron's bunt, and scored on Beltran's groundout.
"We're playing better," said Piazza, 0-for-8 in the series before Thursday. "From our standpoint, we're not thinking about anything except getting above .500."
- There was a moment of silence after the sixth inning for the victims of Thursday's attacks in London.
- Security was tightened before the game. The announced attendance was 44,492, just short of capacity, although the stands did not appear to be that full.
- RHP Pedro Martinez pulled out of the All-Star game because he's scheduled to start for the Mets on Sunday.
- The Nationals had won nine straight home series, dating to April 25-27, when Philadelphia took two of three games.