WASHINGTON — The Mets’ healing hitters can’t come back soon enough.
Yan Gomes' walk-off single off Edwin Diaz on Friday night gave the Nationals a 1-0 victory over the Mets, whose scoreless streak is now at 21 innings.
They managed just two hits against starter Erick Fedde (seven innings) and relievers Kyle Finnegan and Brad Hand. Dominic Smith singled in the fourth, Luis Guillorme in the fifth. Their lone at-bat with a runner in scoring position came in the seventh, when Tomas Nido grounded out.
"You can’t not give credit to the opposing pitching," manager Luis Rojas said, referring to the Cubs on Thursday as well as the Nationals on Friday. "They pitched well against us. We only created a few chances."
This is the first time the Mets have been shut out in consecutive games since Aug. 25, 2020, when they failed to score in a doubleheader against the Marlins. The last time it happened in back-to-back nine-inning games: May 18-19, 2019, also against Miami.
The Mets (35-27) still are missing half of their starting lineup. Jeff McNeil is due back Sunday or Monday, with Michael Conforto a few days behind him. Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis are further away.
"This group of guys (who have been filling in) play their butt off. They’ve been great," Rojas said. "There’s so much they’ve done from an offensive standpoint, defensive standpoint. You can’t just go away from this group that easy and say that, OK, guys are on their way, we’re going to get our offense going."
In the bottom of the ninth, Juan Soto walked after a couple of borderline calls — one against him, one for. He thought a 3-and-1 slider outside was ball four, but plate umpire Kerwin Danley called it a strike, so Soto gave him a funny look.
Three pitches later, a slider might have caught the lower inside corner, but Danley called it ball four. As Soto skipped backward and flipped his bat, Rojas stared at the ump.
"The 3-and-2 pitch to Soto was a strike," Diaz said. "After that pitch, the inning changed completely."
Rojas added: "He got squeezed on that 3-and-2 pitch. And then everything just built up."
Soto was trying to steal second — manager Dave Martinez said he sent him because Diaz is slow to the plate — when Ryan Zimmerman singled softly to rightfield, allowing Soto to reach third. Gomes hooked a line drive down the leftfield line to score Soto.
"I made good pitches," Diaz said. "But today wasn’t my day."
Lefthander Joey Lucchesi did his part, providing more of his recent usual: abbreviated excellence. He lasted a season-high 5 1/3 innings — without allowing a run — and threw a season-high 90 pitches against the Nats (31-35). Miguel Castro bailed him out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by getting Zimmerman to ground into a double play.
In his past five starts, Lucchesi has a 1.19 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. In his half-dozen games before that, he had a 9.19 ERA and 1.53 WHIP.
He offered two reasons for the drastic turnaround: a simplified mindset — including less studying of video/scouting reports — and a simplified delivery, which erased a pitch-tipping issue.
"Pitching is way easier when the batters don’t know what’s coming," he said.
He also noted, regarding the reduced homework: "I’m a big thinker. The more relaxed I am, the better I do out on the mound. If I have all this stuff going on in my head, I’m not going to do well."
That helped Lucchesi pitch into a sixth inning for the first time since 2019.
"I was really juiced to go back out there," Lucchesi said. "It made me feel good."
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