WASHINGTON -- As is his duty in such situations, Carlos Torres took off at the crack of the bat, scrambling to a spot behind home plate to back up John Buck in case of an errant throw.
He got there just in time to turn and watch the ball disappear over the leftfield fence.
With one swing, catcher Wilson Ramos ensured total domination Sunday, hitting the first grand slam of his major-league career to lead the Nationals to a 14-1 blowout of the Mets.
Ramos equaled a career high with five RBIs, all of them against Torres, who surrendered eight runs and nine hits in three innings. His unraveling sent the Mets to their third loss in four games and only their third series loss in their last 11.
"We've got to pick it up and get into Miami and play better, and certainly pitch better than we did today," said manager Terry Collins, who watched his team squander a chance to take advantage of a reeling opponent.
The Mets opened Friday's doubleheader with an 11-0 drubbing of the Nats, who have wilted under the weight of expectations. But the Mets dropped the nightcap, wasting another stellar outing by Matt Harvey before losing on a walk-off homer by Ryan Zimmerman, which Collins thinks "probably took the starch out of this whole series."
Indeed, in the last three games, the Nationals (52-54) outscored the Mets 20-3.
To preserve their exceedingly slim hopes of a playoff run, the Mets (46-56) must do some damage during a four-game set in Miami. The Marlins (40-63) have endured their share of problems, which continued on Sunday when hitting coach and former Yankee Tino Martinez resigned amid allegations, as reported in the Miami Herald, that he verbally abused players. Still, the Marlins own an 8-3 mark against the Mets this season.
Entering Sunday, Mets starters ranked fourth in the majors this month with a 2.82 ERA. They had pitched at least seven innings in six of their previous eight games and allowed one or no runs in five of eight.
Torres, however, fell well short of meeting either standard.
By consistently throwing strikes, he ascended from Triple-A Las Vegas to the Mets' bullpen to the team's six-man rotation. After two starts, he had a 0.94 ERA. But pumping the strike zone worked against him, and after he gave the Nats far too many enticing pitches to drive, his ERA jumped to 3.13.
Though Torres said the Nationals seemed to find plenty of holes in the field, he did not absolve himself of blame, saying: "They definitely hit some mistakes also."
The Nationals jumped ahead 3-0 in the second on an RBI single by Ramos and a two-run single by Bryce Harper. In the third, Ian Desmond singled home another run before Ramos' grand slam landed in the Mets' bullpen.
The Nationals' offense, one of the worst in baseball, blitzed Mets pitchers for a season-high 18 hits -- four each by Desmond and Denard Span and three by Zimmerman.
"Yeah, we were very surprised," Collins said. "They also have been struggling over there, so you know they've got a good club. But when they bounce back like that, obviously we made some bad, bad pitches."
Notes & quotes: Mets captain David Wright did not start for only the third time this season. Josh Satin started at third base and went 0-for-4 with a walk and three strikeouts . . . Utilityman Justin Turner still is feeling shoulder stiffness two days after colliding with outfielder Andrew Brown.
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