WASHINGTON -- The Mets, by their manager's own words, are not firing on all cylinders as they head into Yankee Stadium for Friday night's opener of the Subway Series.
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But the Mets had R.A. Dickey pitching Thursday and they have Johan Santana Friday night -- so they have a great chance to win two days out of every five.
Dickey continued his phenomenal stretch with 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the Mets' crisp 3-1 win at Nationals Park.
Dickey (9-1), who has the most wins in the major leagues, has thrown 24 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. The Mets' record is 31 2/3 by Jerry Koosman in 1973.
Dickey won eight games last season. His career high is 11. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out eight.
"We needed to have this game to go back and go into Yankee Stadium with," Collins said. "I'm worried about the Washington Nationals. Kept us close to them, too."
Lucas Duda hit a two-run homer off former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang (1-2) to break a scoreless tie in the fifth inning. It was his team-leading 10th.
Daniel Murphy, who earlier snapped an 0-for-19 streak, singled in an insurance run in the seventh for the Mets (32-26), who snapped a three-game losing streak and moved to within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Nationals in the NL East.
"I don't ever consider myself a stopper of any kind," Dickey said. "I would consider myself a starter -- a starter of a new streak. Hopefully we can carry this momentum into New York and go from there. We've got a pretty good guy going tomorrow."
Santana will make his first start since last Friday's no-hitter. Collins said it will be a "normal start" with no restrictions on Santana, who had a week off after his 134-pitch gem.
Speaking of the Mets' recent string of injuries and illnesses, Collins said: "I'm going to put Johan in a bubble."
The Mets spent most of the pregame worrying about shortstop Omar Quintanilla, who reported to work with a contusion of his left index finger suffered Wednesday. They also scratched an ill Jason Bay just before game time.
Quintanilla played and played well. He went 2-for-3 (with a painful hit by pitch to his right foot in the second inning) and made several tough defensive plays, including one when the Nationals challenged Dickey in the seventh.
Michael Morse followed with a grounder into the hole that Quintanilla fielded and threw to third baseman David Wright for the first out. Ian Desmond then grounded into a 5-5-3 double play to end the inning.
For the Mets, who had played ragged defense the previous two nights, it was a welcome sign. "That's why we needed him in there," Collins said of Quintanilla.
After a one-out single by Jhonatan Solano in the eighth, Collins removed Dickey after a long conversation on the mound. Bobby Parnell walked Rick Ankiel to bring the tying run to the plate but got Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper on consecutive groundouts to end the threat.
"That's a situation there where you don't want to make a mistake because of fatigue," said Dickey, who threw 105 pitches. "I understood. That's part of it. It's OK."
Zimmerman hit a leadoff homer off Frank Francisco in the ninth, but the closer retired the next three batters for his 15th save. That sent the Mets home for three road games, beginning with Friday night's series opener with Santana on the mound.
"We've got the big lefthander going," Murphy said. "Let's go!"