WASHINGTON — The Mets lost to the Nationals, 5-2, on Sunday, yes. But really they lost to Kyle Schwarber.
Washington’s beefy leadoff hitter was a one-man wrecking crew against Mets pitching, walloping three home runs for four RBIs. That gave him five long balls during a 13-inning stretch, as well as nine in his past 10 games.
"That’s as hot as you can get," manager Luis Rojas said. "You’re swinging the bat like that, the feeling is there’s nothing they can throw that will fool you."
Kevin Pillar added: "He single-handedly beat us today. Sometimes . . . you just run into an extremely hot hitter. It was really impressive to see what he was able to do."
And starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, who gave up the first two dingers: "He’s just locked in right now."
The Schwarber party started in the first, when he hammered what Walker called "a lazy fastball" on the outer edge of the plate to left-center. In the fifth, he crushed a sinker that didn’t sink for another solo shot, pulled into the home bullpen in rightfield. He completed the hat trick in the seventh, when Jeurys Familia left a sinker of the middle of the plate.
That last one induced a curtain call from a Nationals Park crowd of 30,371, the largest group of fans the Mets have played in front of since 2019.
Schwarber exited the game after the seventh due to a sore knee.
"Honestly, I don’t think we got to pitch around him, but we’ve just got to be a little bit more fine, maybe mix it up a little bit more," Walker said. "There was a couple times we just left some fastballs over the plate, and he hit them. Those things happen."
Nationals lefthander Patrick Corbin (5.40 ERA) outpitched Walker (2.42 ERA).
Corbin lasted six innings-plus, allowing two runs, on solo homers by Pillar and Pete Alonso. The Mets had only two other hits. He struck out seven and walked one.
Walker gave up four runs and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings, with Schwarber doing most of that damage. It could have been worse if not for the Nats’ 1-for-9 effort with runners in scoring position against Walker, who struck out five and walked none.
"I didn’t have my best stuff," Walker said. "I didn’t have my best fastballs today."
For the first-place Mets (36-29), it was a third loss in the four-game series and a fourth loss in five games overall. Consider it a reminder that maybe running away with the division won’t be as easy as it sometimes has looked like it could be. The third-place Nationals (33-36) have won nine of 12.
"We’re in a good position, despite everything that’s gone on this year," Pillar said. "But it’s going to be a dogfight to the very last series. I expect nothing less. This team expects nothing less."
An NL East-only portion of the Mets’ schedule continues Monday, when the Mets open an eight-game homestand against Atlanta (doubleheader Monday) and Philadelphia (doubleheader Friday).
They have to come back to Washington, D.C., for a lone game next Monday, another makeup of the teams’ season-opening series that was postponed due to the Nats’ COVID-19 outbreak.
"You leave here realizing you just witnessed something pretty special, what he was able to do over the last couple of days," Pillar said of Schwarber. "We’ll see him again in a week. Maybe he cools off by then."
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