If there is an elixir for the Mets’ all-encompassing August woes, they arrived at Citi Field this week.
The Nationals are two weeks into what probably will be a multi-year rebuild. Their front office gave up on 2021 last month, when it traded longtime ace Max Scherzer, franchise shortstop Trea Turner, slugger/Mets tormenter Kyle Schwarber, closer Brad Hand, starting catcher Yan Gomes and other useful players like Josh Harrison and Daniel Hudson. What remains is a bad team.
Games against the Nats, however, still count just as much as games against anybody else. Their fire sale was a welcome development for the Mets, who beat Washington, 8-7, in the series opener Wednesday — the first of 11 times they are facing each other in the final two months of the season.
The teams were supposed to play twice, but rain postponed the second game. Instead, they’ll have a doubleheader at noon Thursday.
"They’re different, but there are a lot of guys we know," manager Luis Rojas said of the Nationals, referencing familiarity from spring training, when clubs dig deep into the organizational depth chart to fill out a lineup in the late innings of exhibition games. "We always think they’re going to be talented. We have to show up every play. You saw the pressure that they put on us."
The Mets (57-55), who have struggled against even weak teams in recent weeks, won via a two-run, eighth-inning rally highlighted by pinch hitter Brandon Drury’s go-ahead single. He fisted a low line drive over a drawn-in infield to give the Mets their first lead in a week, leading to their first win in a week.
That inning began with J.D. Davis greeting rookie reliever Mason Thompson with a double lined into the rightfield corner. Davis scored, tying the game, when Thompson threw Jonathan Villar’s sacrifice bunt attempt down the first-base line. Then came Drury’s dramatics.
Rojas called the win, which snapped a four-game losing streak, one of the Mets’ biggest of the season.
"This is what we’ve done for the most part this year," he said. "Fight and find our way into really, really big wins."
The Mets erased two separate three-run deficits before getting ahead. Their eight runs were more than they scored in their previous four games combined.
"It shows who we are as an offensive team," Rojas said. "I know we haven’t shown up like this offensively, but these guys have hit like this in their careers."
This game was a funky one, picking up exactly where the teams left off Tuesday night before rain caused it to be suspended: 3-1 Nats, top of the second, Riley Adams on first base and pitcher Paolo Espino at the plate. The Mets were in the early hole because Carlos Carrasco gave up a three-run home run to Juan Soto in the first inning.
After play resumed 20 1/2 hours after it was paused, Adams scored when Victor Robles lofted a fly ball to just about the wall in leftfield. It went off Dominic Smith’s glove, and Robles was credited with an RBI double.
That came against Rich Hill, who was scheduled to start Thursday but volunteered to take the ball a day early when the Mets suddenly found themselves in need of a pitcher who could get the de facto start.
His outing was mediocre: three innings-plus, four hits, three runs, three walks, four strikeouts.
Hill fought through three scoreless innings, working in and out of trouble with no ill effect but a high pitch count. Washington finally got to him in the fifth, when the first three batters reached: Yadiel Hernandez (walk), Carter Kieboom (single fisted through a wide-open right side of the infield) and Luis Garcia (two-run double).
"He gave us three good innings," Rojas said. "He helped us win. He was a big piece for us to come back and win."
The Nationals (50-63) replaced Espino (one inning, one run Tuesday) with Joe Ross, who lasted five innings and gave up four runs.
The Mets’ top three hitters — Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso (two doubles) — each had multiple hits.
"It’s going to be like this for the next month and a half. It’s going to be very intense games," Hill said. "As long as we keep that aggressiveness high, we continue to not quit and put everything out there on the field . . . we have the team to do it."
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