Clint Robinson's two-run double to deep center was the biggest blow as the Nationals jumped on Mets starter Matt Harvey for five runs in the first three innings Monday night, and NL East-leading Washington beat second-place New York 7-2.
A day after leaving 25 men on base and going 1 for 26 with runners in scoring position in an 18-inning victory at St. Louis, the Mets' troubled offense left 10 men on and went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
Indeed, it was Harvey (8-7) who drove in both of New York's runs with a bases-loaded single in the fourth off Gio Gonzalez (7-4).
Dialing up his fastball to 99 mph, Harvey retired the last 14 batters he faced after his rocky beginning. He wound up going seven innings, charged with five runs — four earned — and five hits.
Gonzalez allowed two runs and six hits in six innings. He got help from center fielder Michael A. Taylor, who made a long run for a nice grab of Eric Campbell's fly ball before bumping into the out-of-town video scoreboard to end the fifth with two men aboard.
Robinson, starting at first base for the injured Ryan Zimmerman, drove the ball over the head of center fielder Juan Lagares in a three-run third that also included Mets third baseman Daniel Murphy's bad throw for his second error of the game.
Zimmerman is one of four everyday Nationals currently on the disabled list, along with left fielder Jayson Werth, infielder Anthony Rendon and center fielder Denard Span.
In the first, Yunel Escobar delivered an RBI single after one of Bryce Harper's two walks. Later, on a pitch in the dirt, Harper took off from second and kept going, scoring while Escobar got caught in a rundown.
Ian Desmond tacked on a two-run homer off Mets reliever Alex Torres in the eighth.
Mets manager Terry Collins aligned his rotation to have his top pitchers face Washington, and he didn't try to hide how important he believes this matchup is. The Nationals opened the series two games ahead of the Mets.
"We're trying to catch these guys, so it's big," Collins said. "It's big for us."
Mets: C Anthony Recker was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas and started Monday. C Johnny Monell was optioned to Las Vegas.
Nationals: RHP Abel de Los Santos was promoted from Double-A Harrisburg, and RHP Blake Treinen was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.
Mets: LF Michael Cuddyer was out of the starting lineup because of a sore left knee. Collins said Cuddyer took some new anti-inflammatory medication Monday. "I didn't want to have to start him and then take him out in the third or fourth. He's still pretty tender," Collins said. John Mayberry Jr. started in left field.
Nationals: Werth (bruised left wrist) and Rendon (strained left quad) were scheduled to play in minor league games Monday as they work their way back from injuries. ... Zimmerman (left foot plantar fasciitis) spent Monday with the Nationals, going through a workout to check his progress. ... Span (back) is doing strengthening exercises.
Reigning NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.14 ERA) will make his first appearance for the Mets since his terrific All-Star outing — three strikeouts on only 10 pitches — and try to beat Washington for the first time. In three career starts against the Nationals, the righty is 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA. The Nationals plan to call up rookie RHP Joe Ross (2-1, 2.66) from the minors for his fourth start in the majors.