Jonathon Niese did quite well for himself while pitching with a sore shoulder.
Now he's got to learn how to excel with a healthy arm.
Niese allowed a season-high six runs in six innings, and the Mets lost to Doug Fister and the Washington Nationals 7-1 Wednesday night.
Niese (5-8) went on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder strain in early July and came off July 21. Since his return, he's 0-4 with a 5.76 ERA in four starts.
"It seemed like when I didn't feel 100 percent, that's when I was pitching best. Now, obviously I changed my mechanics a little bit," the left-hander said. "My arm feels a lot better so I've got to figure out how to pitch with that. I'm making a lot of mistakes now with my good stuff and I'm not getting away with it."
It was only the second time in his last 25 starts Niese yielded more than three earned runs. Both those occasions occurred since he came back from the DL.
"We've just got to keep getting him out there, keep getting him work and get him back to where he's successful, and that's locating his pitches," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Fister took a five-hit shutout into the eighth inning, Adam LaRoche homered twice and Danny Espinosa also connected for the Nationals.
Fister (11-3) allowed one unearned run and six hits in 7 1-3 innings. He struck out seven and reduced his ERA to 2.49.
The Mets, who had faced Fister only once previously, seemingly weren't prepared for his rapid-fire style.
"He works real quick, throws a lot of strikes, doesn't walk anybody," Collins said.
LaRoche hit a two-run drive in the first inning and a solo shot in the eighth, his 23rd career multihomer game. Espinosa went deep with two on in the sixth and Anthony Rendon hit two doubles to help NL East-leading Washington increase its lead over sputtering Atlanta to four games.
Washington got all the offense it needed in a three-run first. Rendon doubled with one out, Jayson Werth hit an RBI single and LaRoche followed with his 14th home run.
"It's certainly nice to get that," Fister said. "I've still got to go out there, still got to put up a zero and get our guys back in to hit."
In the sixth, Ian Desmond singled, Bryce Harper walked and Espinosa sent a 1-1 pitch over the left-field wall. It was his seventh home run of the season, the first since May 12.
Fister left with two on and one out in the eighth with Washington up 6-0. Newcomer Matt Thornton gave up a two-out RBI single to Daniel Murphy.
Washington leadoff hitter Denard Span singled in the third to extend his streak of games reaching via a hit or walk to 32.