WASHINGTON (AP) - With two men on, Washington Nationals center fielder Michael A. Taylor made a long run for a nice grab of a deep fly ball before bumping into the out-of-town video scoreboard to end the fifth inning.
''I was thinking `triple' right out of the box,'' Mets batter Eric Campbell would say later.
Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez sure appreciated the effort, raising his index finger to point in Taylor's direction.
''You've got to show love,'' Gonzalez said, ''when love is due.''
Gonzalez got plenty of defensive help, Clint Robinson's two-run double provided the biggest blow as the Nationals jumped on Matt Harvey for five runs in the first three innings Monday night, and NL East-leading Washington beat second-place New York 7-2.
''He went a long way,'' Nationals manager Matt Williams said about Taylor's play. ''And that wall comes up quick. But it was a perfect read, perfect angle.''
Third baseman Yunel Escobar made a diving stop, right fielder Bryce Harper made a sliding catch, and catcher Jose Lobaton made a stumbling grab in foul territory to back Gonzalez (7-4), who allowed two runs in six innings.
A day after leaving 25 men on base and going 1 for 26 with runners in scoring position in an 18-inning victory at St. Louis, the Mets' troubled offense left 10 men on and went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
Indeed, it was Harvey (8-7) who drove in New York's runs with a bases-loaded single in the fourth.
Dialing up his fastball to 99 mph, Harvey retired the last 14 batters he faced after his rocky beginning. He wound up going seven innings, charged with five runs - four earned.
''When you can't find it, maybe you try a little bit too hard to find it right away, instead of toning it down a little bit,'' Harvey said.
Williams pointed to one particular key: staying away from Harvey's high fastballs.
Robinson, starting at first base for the injured Ryan Zimmerman, drove the ball over the head of center fielder Juan Lagares in a three-run third that also included Mets third baseman Daniel Murphy's bad throw for his second error of the game. Zimmerman is one of four everyday Nationals on the disabled list, along with Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Denard Span.
Mets manager Terry Collins aligned his rotation to have his top pitchers face Washington, and he didn't try to hide how important he believes this matchup is. The Nationals opened the series two games ahead of the Mets.
''We're trying to catch these guys, so it's big,'' Collins said. ''It's big for us.''
DESMOND AND RIPKEN
Nationals SS Ian Desmond, who hit a two-run homer off reliever Alex Torres in the eighth, said a chance meeting with former Orioles star and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. might have provided a boost.
''The other day, I was walking to the park, and Cal Ripken was out there signing autographs in the parking lot. He kind of grabbed me and he said, `Hey, back in `93, through the first 80 games, I was hitting .199.' He said, `I finished with a pretty good year. You're going to be all right.' And that kind of gave me a little bit of hope,'' Desmond said. ''If he did it and grinded through it, I can, too.''
Mets: LF Michael Cuddyer was out of the starting lineup because of a sore left knee.
Nationals: Werth (bruised left wrist) and Rendon (strained left quad) were scheduled to play in minor league games Monday.
Reigning NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.14 ERA) will make his first appearance for the Mets since his terrific All-Star outing - three strikeouts on only 10 pitches - and try to beat Washington for the first time. In three career starts against the Nationals, the righty is 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA. The Nationals plan to call up rookie RHP Joe Ross (2-1, 2.66) from the minors for his fourth start in the majors.
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