John Buck hit his seventh home run of the season, Dillon Gee earned his first win and the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 2-0 on Sunday to take two of three games from the NL East champions.
Coming off a pair of poor starts, Gee (1-3) pitched three-hit ball for 5 2-3 innings and New York finally got a strong effort from its struggling bullpen, which entered with the highest ERA in the majors at 5.47. Buck hit a drive into the second deck at Citi Field and Mike Baxter added a sacrifice fly as New York ran up Jordan Zimmermann's pitch count in dealing the right-hander his first loss of the year.
The Mets, 4-14 against the Nationals last year, have won their first three series at home for the first time since 2006.
Slick defensive plays by Buck behind the plate and Ruben Tejada at shortstop gave the Mets a boost. Meanwhile, Washington committed three errors — though none proved costly.
The Nationals tried to rally in the eighth when pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi led off with a single and Denard Span walked against 31-year-old rookie Scott Rice. With the meat of the order coming up, Jayson Werth grounded into a double play on a 3-0 pitch and Rice struck out Bryce Harper, who homered twice and doubled Saturday in Washington's 7-6 victory.
Looking for a solid start from someone other than Matt Harvey or Jonathon Niese, the Mets got one from Gee, who won for the first time since his 2012 season was cut short by a blood clot in July. The right-hander struck out six and did not walk a batter until issuing three free passes in the sixth. But he got some help when Buck made a tough, backhand pickup of a breaking ball in the dirt and threw out Span trying to scamper to second.
LaTroy Hawkins threw a called third strike past Ian Desmond with two on to end the inning.
Brandon Lyon worked a 1-2-3 seventh, and Bobby Parnell fanned two in a perfect ninth for his second save.
Zimmermann (3-1) threw 96 pitches in five innings. He allowed two hits and three walks.
Anthony Rendon went hitless for Washington and committed an error in his major league debut. Selected sixth overall in the 2011 amateur draft out of Rice, he was called up from Double-A Harrisburg to replace injured third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
Before the game, Rendon said his parents tried to fly in from Houston for his debut, but airline difficulties left them without seats even though they thought they had booked their reservation. He said his parents plan to be in Washington to see him play when the Nationals return home Monday to face St. Louis.
Buck launched a drive to left-center leading off the second, giving him 22 RBIs in his first three weeks with the Mets after coming over from Toronto in the trade that sent NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays.
A leadoff walk to David Wright in the fourth and Ike Davis' hit-and-run single set up Baxter's sacrifice fly.
NOTES: Zimmerman was placed on the 15-day DLt, retroactive to April 18, with a strained left hamstring. ... Nationals reliever Zach Duke struck out four in two scoreless innings. ... Seeking help for the bullpen, the Mets recalled LHP Rob Carson from Triple-A Las Vegas and designated LHP Aaron Laffey for assignment. Laffey was brought up from Las Vegas to fill in for injured starter Shaun Marcum, on the DL with right biceps tendinitis. Marcum is slated to throw about 70 pitches in extended spring training Monday and if all goes well he'll be penciled in to start Saturday for the Mets against Philadelphia, with a limit of 90-95 pitches. ... Fans received bobbleheads of former All-Star pitcher Ron Darling, currently a Mets broadcaster.