Turns out the Mets aren’t infallible.
They were all set up Monday night for a fourth win in four games against the Nationals, leading by five runs in the late innings, but Washington scored six against five pitchers in the eighth for a stunning 8-6 comeback victory at Citi Field.
The turnaround served as a stark reminder: The Nationals, hampered by injuries and without their top starters pitching in this series, were the preseason division favorite three weeks ago and are still a good team. The Mets, who entered with the National League’s best record (12-2) and the best bullpen ERA in the majors (1.51), probably will lose at least another 70 or so games.
The Mets still lead the Nationals by five games in the NL East.
“It was really one inning. We outplayed them for the rest of the game,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “We have to realize it was one bad inning, we didn’t get the job done. We’ll learn from it and make sure it doesn’t throw us into some kind of tailspin, because we’re a really good team and we’ve been showing that.”
Righthander Jacob deGrom dominated into the eighth. Three outs later, the Mets jogged off the field to boos.
In between, Callaway’s usual parade of relievers — so effective so often through the first 2 1⁄2 weeks — collapsed. Seth Lugo (one run, zero outs), Jerry Blevins (one run, zero outs) and AJ Ramos (two runs, one out) all were charged with more runs than outs. Jeurys Familia blew a save for the first time this year, with Wilmer Difo’s two-run single through the right side driving in two to tie it.
Familia walked Michael A. Taylor, a .183 hitter, on five pitches with the bases loaded to put the Nationals up 7-6.
The Nationals’ rally wasn’t a sexy one. Of their five hits, all were singles and four were ground balls. The Mets walked three batters and hit one.
“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and I have a lot of confidence in my teammates,” said Ramos, who walked Matt Reynolds on four pitches with the bases loaded. “Today is not going to change that at all.”
In the first seven innings, the Nationals were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. In the eighth, they went 3-for-4.
Mets relievers had allowed nine earned runs in 53 2⁄3 innings entering Monday, when they allowed five in 1 2⁄3 innings.
“This is baseball. We’re going to lose some games. We might pitch like this again,” Ramos said. “It’s a long season. Odds are, we have guys in the pen that are going to come out and do the job most of the time.”
The ugly eighth ruined what had been a dominant night for deGrom. He had the Mets’ longest outing this year by innings (7 1⁄3) and pitches (103) and struck out 12. The Nationals scored three runs against him, two of them inherited runners who came in on Harper’s single.
The other run was Harper’s broken-bat home run in the first. He swung at a first-pitch fastball, but as the ball sailed over the wall in right-center, he started down the line holding only the splintered handle. Momentum flung the barrel of the bat into the screen behind home plate.
The Mets showed off their offensive versatility in the sixth and seventh. In the sixth, they scored twice without a hit, turning two walks, two steals, a sacrifice bunt and an error into a rally. . In the seventh, they scored twice on two hits: Brandon Nimmo’s leadoff triple (401 feet to center) and Asdrubal Cabrera’s homer (359 feet to right).
Cabrera went 4-for-5, but after doubling in the ninth, he was thrown out at third on a pitch in the dirt for the second out. Michael Conforto was batting as the potential tying run.
“If he goes, he has to make it,” Callaway said.
He did not make it.
“It was bad running right there,” Cabrera said. “Down by two, I don’t think it was necessary to do that.”
Sign up for Newsday’s Mets Messages for updates directly to your phone via text, free with a Newsday digital subscription. Learn more at newsday.com/metstext.