If the Mets suffered a letdown following their thrilling series victory over the Dodgers, it didn’t last long.
The Mets, who have gone from facing the majors’ best team to the majors’ worst, broke open a tie game with a four-run sixth inning and rode a solid bullpen effort to a 7-3 win over the Nationals in front of 33,630 at Citi Field on Friday night.
In opening a stretch of 16 straight games against teams below .500, the Mets mostly played like a team below .500 — running into a few outs on the basepaths and allowing Washington to score its first run on a throwing errors by catcher Tomas Nido — but their bats were there when needed.
Eduardo Escobar and Pete Alonso each homered to help the Mets (85-48) remain three games up on the Braves, who beat the Marlins on Friday.
The Mets snapped a 3-3 tie when Alonso, who more often has been snapping bats recently, homered off Nationals starter Josiah Gray on the second pitch of the bottom of the sixth. It was Alonso’s 32nd homer of the season and was much-needed from a slugger who had been hitting .200 over his past 20 games. It was just the start of a Mets breakout.
Daniel Vogelbach followed with a walk before Jeff McNeil (3-for-4) lined a single that knocked Gray out of the game. Mark Canha, facing righty Steve Cishek, lined a single to load the bases without an out.
Tyler Naquin pinch-ran for Vogelbach. That was important because Escobar lifted a sacrifice fly to right field on a play that drove in Naquin and sent McNeil to third. Canha, however, was doubled off while trying a delayed tag-up to second.
But a clutch RBI single from Nido and a Brandon Nimmo RBI triple — on a ball misread by center fielder Victor Robles, who initially broke in — extended the Mets’ lead, which was not threatened because of their bullpen.
The unit lacked its two biggest weapons, Edwin Diaz and Adam Ottavino, who had pitched the Mets to victories over the Dodgers two days in a row. In a bullpen searching for contributors, Mychal Givens stepped up most in their absence.
The trade-deadline pickup replaced David Peterson with the score tied 3-3 in the top of the sixth with two outs and Ildemaro Vargas, the potential go-ahead run, on third base. Givens needed four pitches to induce a ground out from CJ Abrams to escape the frame, then he returned with a solid seventh inning.
Joely Rodriguez and Seth Lugo finished off the work for the bullpen, which threw 3 ²/₃ scoreless innings.
The Mets, who have won 11 of 14 games against the Nationals (45-87) this season, struck first in the second inning, when Escobar launched his 13th homer of the season. Notably, he smacked the Gray offering from the left side — his weaker side, only getting the start because of injuries to Luis Guillorme and Brett Baty — for his first lefty dinger since July 13.
Peterson allowed the Nationals to hang around, though he wasn’t entirely to blame.
In the third, Peterson was hurt doubly by Nido. The lefty allowed a leadoff triple to Robles, then induced a ground out from Abrams and struck out Lane Thomas on a nasty slider in the dirt. But Nido tried to gun down Robles at third and short-hopped a scrambling Escobar, who did not get to the base quickly enough and watched as the ball skipped past him. Robles scored and Thomas took first base, reaching on the strikeout, which was not caught cleanly.
Washington added a run apiece in the fifth and sixth innings on an RBI single from Alex Call and an RBI double from Vargas. That hit chased Peterson after 5 ¹/₃ innings, in which he allowed three runs on eight hits.
Peterson, who may be shifting to the bullpen with Carlos Carrasco’s expected return coming Sunday, was picking up a rotation that needed a lift.
The Mets’ bats and bullpen gave Peterson a lift in turn.
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