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Mets blanked by Nationals, fall five games back

Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets

Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets pitches in the third inning during a game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on June 28, 2016 in Washington. Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Mitchell Layton

WASHINGTON — The goal for the rest of the first half is far from aspirational. The Mets are hurting too much to hope for anything more. Manager Terry Collins has said as much. It’s about survival.

But these days, even treading water appears too much to ask of these Mets, 5-0 losers Tuesday to the division-leading Nationals.

Again, the Mets stomached a bitter brew of incompetence at the plate, bothersome injuries, and bad luck.

Matt Harvey’s fastball roared, but a rain delay forced him out after allowing a run in just 3 2⁄3 innings.

“You work so hard all year to finally figure some stuff out and Mother Nature just takes over,” said Harvey, who did not re-emerge after a 1-hour, 25-minute delay, which came after first pitch was already pushed back 55 minutes.

Said Collins: “Tonight is some of the best stuff he had all year.”

It was wasted. Harvey’s run came on Anthony Rendon’s RBI triple in the second. It was enough to saddle the righthander with his 10th loss of the season.

Curtis Granderson did not return after the stoppage in the bottom of the fourth, when his right calf stiffened. Collins revealed that he has been dealing with a “small strain” since last weekend.

The soggy outfield prompted the manager to pull Granderson just to be safe. He may miss Wednesday’s series finale.

“I’m really not sure,” said Granderson, who wasn’t sure what caused the discomfort. “I’m kind of puzzled a little bit.”

In the seventh, Hansel Robles needed help getting to his feet when he took a Ryan Zimmerman liner off his right leg, though Collins said later that the Mets reliever dodged a major injury.

Still, all of it added up to what Collins wants desperately to avoid at the All-Star break — more lost ground.

After arriving here three games back of the Nationals (46-32), the Mets (40-36) now trail by five games. And to avoid making it six, they must win Wednesday’s series finale, with spot starter Logan Verrett on the mound against Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

The Mets entered the delay trailing 1-0. The hole soon grew. In the fifth, Bryce Harper lined a two-run shot off lefty specialist Jerry Blevins to give the Nationals a 3-0 lead. It was the first homer Blevins allowed to a lefty since Prince Fielder in 2013.

Afterward, Harper rejoiced in the rain.

“It got Harvey out of there,” Harper said. “He’s back to his old ways. I was happy enough to get him off and get going.”

In the seventh, familiar Mets tormentor Wilson Ramos twisted the knife, lining a two-run double off the centerfield wall to make it 5-0.

Ex-Met Oliver Perez picked up the win in relief after leaving the bases loaded in the sixth, defusing what had been a dangerous one-out jam.

Nationals prospect Lucas Giolito, 21, tossed four shutout innings in his big-league debut, which came after the Nationals sent Stephen Strasburg to the DL with a back injury. His outing was also cut short by the rain.

Notes & quotes: Lucas Duda will resume baseball activities in two weeks. He has been dealing with a stress fracture in his back, general manager Sandy Alderson said . . . The Mets are still determining a new timeline for the return of Zack Wheeler, whose rehab from Tommy John surgery had been pushed back because of nerve irritation in his elbow . . . Prospects Dilson Herrera and Dominic Smith will represent the Mets at the Futures’ Game during All-Star Game festivities in San Diego.

New York Sports