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New York at Washington

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N.Y. Mets (83-67)000000000041
Washington (58-93) «00001000x170

Mets stumble against Nats, fall out of first in NL East

CBSSports.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- It took six days for the New York Mets to squander a 3½-game cushion in the NL East. Now, the only race they lead is for the wild card -- and not by much.

Odalis Perez shut down the slumping Mets and scored the only run of the game, sending Washington to a 1-0 victory Tuesday night that knocked New York out of first place.

Philadelphia moved a half-game in front with an 8-7 win at Atlanta. It's the first time the Mets, who have lost four of five, have been out of first place since Aug. 26. They lead struggling Milwaukee by a half-game in the wild-card standings.

Needing wins in a tense pennant race, the free-falling Mets can't find a way to beat the lowly Nationals.

Sounds the same as last September -- only this flop happened faster.

"We've got to dig down deep," David Wright said. "This is what makes it fun. You've got, what, 12, 13 games left and that's going to decide the season? This is what you work hard for, this is what you prepare for, and as an athlete, a competitor, you love this."

The Mets and their fans aren't loving the flashback to last season, when New York held a seven-game advantage with 17 to play only to lose the division crown to Philadelphia and miss the playoffs in one of the worst collapses in baseball history.

They were up by 3½ games with 17 to go this year, but that lead is gone. And on Tuesday night, New York also lost outfielder Fernando Tatis for the rest of the season to a separated shoulder.

The Mets went 1-5 against the Nationals over the final two weeks last season -- a big reason for their massive meltdown. This time, New York has dropped the first two in a four-game series at Washington mainly because it can't find any offense.

The Mets' four hits Tuesday wasted an outstanding start by Mike Pelfrey. The one real threat by the Mets was thwarted when Willie Harris made another key catch against New York, something he's done regularly over the past year or so.

"We're a better-hitting club than what we've shown here," manager Jerry Manuel said. "We've just got to do a better job, period, offensively."

A day after John Lannan held the Mets to one hit over seven innings, New York mustered just two in the first seven innings against Perez (7-10).

The lefty retired 13 in a row between those two hits -- which came in the first and sixth innings -- and never let a Mets runner advance beyond second base. Perez struck out six and did not walk a batter in 7 1/3 innings, his longest outing since Aug. 11, 2005.

"He had the best command of the season so far," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "He threw every one of his pitches for strikes. He was able to stop the middle of the lineup. He was just tremendous."

Perez gave way to Mike Hinckley after giving up singles to pinch-hitters Ramon Castro and Robinson Cancel in the eighth. Hinckley got Jose Reyes to ground into a fielder's choice, putting runners on first and third with two outs. He then struck out Ryan Church to end the threat.

Hinckley has opened his major league career without giving up a run in his first nine innings.

"I said to him, 'Great job,"' Perez said. "'You saved my game."'

Joel Hanrahan worked a perfect ninth for his ninth save. He struck out Wright and Carlos Delgado.

Pelfrey (13-10) was the hard-luck loser. He allowed seven hits and four walks in seven innings.

"Sometimes you go up against someone that's very good, and Odalis Perez was very good tonight," he said.

When someone asked about the parallels to last season, Pelfrey was having none of it.

"The only time anybody ever thinks about that is when you guys bring it up," Pelfrey said. "It happened last year. I feel the atmosphere of the team is totally different. Nobody's worrying about that, nobody's playing and thinking about last year."

However, Manuel might have been worrying about this year when he closed the clubhouse for about 15 minutes before the game. He said he'd decided to have the meeting after Monday night's 7-2 loss to the Nationals.

The meeting did little to reverse the Mets' fortunes.

"The speech I gave, I won't be selling any CDs," Manuel said.

With Perez sharp on the mound, the Nationals' lone run was enough to hold off the Mets.

With two outs, Perez hit a soft liner to left. Tatis dove for the ball and missed, allowing Perez to reach second with a double as the ball rolled past. Tatis remained on the ground in pain, eventually walking off with a separated right shoulder. He was replaced by Nick Evans.

After Harris walked, Cristian Guzman drove in Perez with a ground-rule double into the Mets' bullpen.

Harris probably saved the game with his glove in the top of the sixth.

With two outs and two on, Wright hit a ball to left field that looked as though it would score at least one run. But Harris made a leaping catch with his back to the plate, ending the inning.

"It was a great play," Wright said. "But we needed to do a better job of putting more pressure on them in more innings, not just having one opportunity and have that make or break the game."

It was the third time in just more than a year that Harris' defense has stymied the Mets. On May 15, he helped preserve another 1-0 Washington win against Pelfrey with a spectacular catch in the ninth inning. Last August, playing with the Braves, he made a leaping catch to rob Delgado of a potential tying homer in the ninth inning of a 7-6 Atlanta victory.

"I'm aware of it," Harris said. "It's not any different than playing any other team. It just so happens I was able to make a few plays against those guys. I really don't know what to say about it. It's just part of my game, and it's what my pitchers expect out of me."

If the Mets want to erase the comparisons to last year, they have two more games in Washington to try and turn things around. This time, they don't have the benefit of a seven-game lead, but the players say there is confidence in the locker room.

"There's no doubt," Reyes said. "We're still in position, but we just have to start again. It's getting tougher and tougher every day."

Notes

  • Washington C Jesus Flores, sidelined since hurting his left ankle Sept. 2, said he's not sure whether his season is over -- something Acta said seemed likely.
  • INF Anderson Hernandez entered hitting .354 with 11 RBI in 12 starts since the Nationals acquired him from the Mets last month. He was batting .203 at Triple-A New Orleans at the time of the trade.
 
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Doom, defeat, despair. The Mets might be a bit shell-shocked as they fall out of first in the East. (AP)
Doom, defeat, despair. The Mets might be a bit shell-shocked as they fall out of first in the East. (AP)

Players of the Game
Washington

C. Guzman
AB 4
R 0
H 2
HR 0
RBI 1
Washington

O. Perez
IP 7.1
H 4
ER 0
BB 0
K 6
 

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New York Mets
Jose Reyes, SS3000001 .298
Ryan Church, RF4000024 .289
David Wright, 3B4010022 .298
Carlos Beltran, CF4000001 .280
Carlos Delgado, 1B4000020 .263
Fernando Tatis, LF2000010 .297
    Nick Evans, LF1000000 .267
    Endy Chavez, LF0000000 .271
Argenis Reyes, 2B3000020 .232
Brian Schneider, C2010000 .259
   a- Ramon Castro, PH1010000 .248
    Ramon Martinez, PR0000000 .000
    Joe Smith, P0000000 .000
Mike Pelfrey, P1000000 .089
   b- Robinson Cancel, PH-C1010000 .222
Totals3004009  
a-singled for Schneider in the 8th
b-singled for Pelfrey in the 8th
Batting
SH - Mike Pelfrey (8)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Reyes-Ar. Reyes-Delgado, Ar. Reyes-Reyes-Delgado
E - Jose Reyes (16, Misplayed grounder)
New York Mets
Mike Pelfrey (L,13-10) 7711440 3.67
Joe Smith 1000010 3.49
Pitches-Strikes - Mike Pelfrey 111-67, Joe Smith 11-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Mike Pelfrey 11-4
Batters Faced - Mike Pelfrey 30, Joe Smith 3
Washington Nationals
Willie Harris, LF3020100 .249
Cristian Guzman, SS4021002 .314
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B4000015 .284
Lastings Milledge, CF4020010 .267
Elijah Dukes, RF2000212 .271
Aaron Boone, 1B4000022 .250
Anderson Hernandez, 2B2000100 .327
Wil Nieves, C3000003 .252
Odalis Perez, P3110000 .160
    Michael Hinckley, P0000000 .000
    Joel Hanrahan, P0000000 .000
Totals2917145  
Batting
2B - Cristian Guzman (34, Pelfrey), Odalis Perez (2, Pelfrey)
RBI - Cristian Guzman (53)
2-OUT RBI - Cristian Guzman (22)
SB - Cristian Guzman (6, 2nd base off Pelfrey/Schneider)
CS - Lastings Milledge (7, 2nd base by Pelfrey/Schneider)
Team LOB - 8
Washington Nationals
Odalis Perez (W,7-10) 7.1400060 4.26
Michael Hinckley (H,3) 0.2000010 0.00
Joel Hanrahan (S,9) 1000020 3.94
HBP - Reyes (by Odalis Perez)
Pitches-Strikes - Odalis Perez 106-67, Michael Hinckley 4-6, Joel Hanrahan 17-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Odalis Perez 11-5, Michael Hinckley 1-0
Batters Faced - Odalis Perez 27, Michael Hinckley 2, Joel Hanrahan 3
Game Information
Attendance - 24997
Game Time - 2:38
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Kerwin Danley, First Base - Wally Bell, Second Base - Paul Schrieber, Third Base - Laz Diaz