WASHINGTON — One of the stranger, more eventful, occasionally downright chaotic winning streaks in recent Mets memory is over.
They split a doubleheader against the Nationals on Saturday, managing an 11-9 victory in the opener and suffering a 4-3 loss in the nightcap. That ended their run of seven straight wins.
The seventh was, fittingly, a wild one. They blew a 9-0 lead but won on Francisco Lindor’s two-run home run off Kyle Finnegan in the ninth. Heath Hembree ended up with the save and Trevor May got the win after escaping a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the previous inning.
In the second game, Lindor and Javier Baez were on the bench because they needed rest, manager Luis Rojas said. They made two of the final three outs as pinch hitters. Pete Alonso struck out looking against Finnegan to end it.
The Mets (68-68) moved within 3 1/2 games of NL East-leading Atlanta, which lost to Colorado, 7-6. The Nationals (56-79) won for the first time in eight tries.
During the Mets’ streak, which lasted nine days, they learned Noah Syndergaard tested positive for COVID-19, endured a controversy set off by Baez saying their thumbs-down celebrations were meant as a form of booing the fans, beat the Marlins in a game that went in the record books as having happened April 11, postponed a game because of the remnants of Hurricane Ida and suspended acting general manager Zack Scott after he was arrested for drunk driving.
"They haven’t let anything distract them from their goal, their daily goal," Rojas said. "We’ve had some things that could’ve distracted the team from playing this game right and winning some games. They focused on what they need to focus on. We preach that all the time, about where our focus is."
The opener lasted 4 hours and 5 minutes, so long that the second game was delayed by 51 minutes to 6:56 p.m. "Long one," Lindor said. "But very rewarding."
Rojas added: "Not a pretty game, right? We’ve hit well. That was a good sign."
The Mets led 9-0 in the fourth before the Nationals scored three runs in the bottom of the inning against Marcus Stroman (five innings, three runs). Then came four in the sixth against Miguel Castro, Brad Hand and the defense, which committed two errors and made another play that could have been ruled as such.
"There’s not a comfortable lead at the big-league level," Rojas said. "There’s not. We gotta be aware of that."
May had the bases loaded and one out in the eighth — the first extra inning in seven-inning doubleheader games — with the Nationals 90 feet away from a walk-off victory. That drew a mound visit from Rojas, an unusual occurrence unless there is a pitching change. Lindor went, too.
May struck out Gerardo Parra and induced a flyout from Keibert Ruiz to avoid trouble, setting the stage for Lindor’s dramatics.
"When I went out to the mound, he said, ‘Yeah, I got this, don’t worry about it. We’re going to get out of this one.’ And he did," Lindor said. "It’s one thing to say it. It’s another thing coming up big like that. That’s huge."
Feasting on Washington pitching, Jonathan Villar, Brandon Nimmo, Lindor and Baez had multiple hits.
The Mets blew it open with a four-run second, highlighted by Baez’s home run and lowlighted by the Nationals’ three misplays — a pair of errors by Alcides Escobar and another whoopsie in which Erick Fedde fielded a ground ball between the mound and first base but nobody covered first.
Syndergaard, quarantined and watching from home, enjoyed Escobar’s contribution, fumbles of consecutive ground balls from Jeff McNeil and Patrick Mazeika.
"Hit it to short!!" Syndergaard, whose history with Escobar includes an up-and-in pitch during the 2015 World Series, wrote on Instagram. "Hahaha."
Lane Thomas and Escobar went deep in Game 2.
The Mets had two hits in the first inning and put runners on first and third with nobody out and one run already in. But they failed to add on and had two more hits the rest of the game.
"That first inning," Rojas said, "was the one that haunted us."
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