Just before the Mets were swept last week in Washington, manager Terry Collins said the 14 games leading into the All-Star break were “very important.’’
He didn’t call this stretch “critical,’’ but his message was understood just the same.
After being destroyed in DC, the Mets responded with a four-game sweep of the Cubs; winning two of three against the Marlins, and powering their way in the opener of this four-game series, 9-7, over the Nationals. With the victory, the Mets pulled within three games of first-place Washington.
Thursday’s win came on the heels of the sobering news Matt Harvey might be lost with season-ending shoulder surgery.
Things didn’t look promising for the Mets after the Nationals took a 4-1 lead in the fourth, but they responded with four homers and a strong showing their bullpen. Travis d’Arnaud, Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores – again – and Asdrubal Cabrera homered for the Mets.
They also caught a break when Jayson Werth’s take-out slide of second baseman Neil Walker was ruled interference, so instead of runners on the corners with no outs the Nationals had the bases empty with two down.
The following are the three main storylines from tonight’s game.
FLORES STAYS HOT: After a pair of two-homer games on this homestand, Flores did not get the start. Collins’ explanation, in part, was to give him an at-bat against one of Washington’s lefty relievers.
It sounded like he was blowing smoke, but sure enough, Flores hit the first pitch thrown to him by former Met Oliver Perez for a three-run homer in the fifth to put New York ahead to stay. It was his sixth game-winning hit of the season.
Flores has five homers during this homestand, which begs the question: Where will he play Friday?
COLON ROCKED; PEN ROCKS: Colon has been one of the most reliable starters this season, but was shelled, giving up six runs on ten hits in 4.2 innings. Three of those homers came in the fourth by Clint Robinson, Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper.
Colon was bailed out by the offense and the bullpen.
With the bases loaded in the fifth, Jerry Blevins struck out Rendon to end the inning. Hansel Robles struck out Jayson Werth to end the sixth; Addison Reed retired four hitters; and Jeurys Familia recorded his 31st save in as many opportunities.
GRANDERSON RED HOT: “Red hot,’’ haven’t been the words to describe Granderson many times this season, but he reached base five times on three hits – two doubles – and two walks.
In his last five games, Granderson is 8-for-19 (.421) with two homers and five RBI.
Granderson’s surge coincides with the move to second in the order behind Reyes.