WASHINGTON (AP) After facing several of the National League's elite starters over the past two weeks, it was a rookie who knocked the Washington Nationals out of first place in the NL East.
Zack Godley pitched six scoreless innings in his third major league start and the Nationals' ninth-inning rally fell short in a 6-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night that dropped Washington out of first place for the first time since mid-June.
''We're going through a spell right now where we're not scoring many runs,'' said Ryan Zimmerman, whose home run began a four-run ninth inning. ''We've gone up against some good pitchers but that's not an excuse.''
Nick Ahmed homered and had four hits as the Diamondbacks handed the Nationals their fourth straight loss.
The New York Mets, who beat Miami 12-1, took over first place by one game after last holding sole possession of the division on June 19.
''At this point it feels like second place and that's where we're at,'' Nationals manager Matt Williams said. ''We'll try and get back to where we want to be starting tomorrow.''
Washington had built its lead to as many as 4 1-2 games in early July, but has lost 12 of its last 17. That slide has come while facing a string of tough starters, losing to likes of Los Angeles' Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole, and the Mets' Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard
Godley (3-0) has none of that pedigree, but the Nationals still only had three at-bats with runners in scoring position against the25-year old.
''He had it working in and out, cutter, sinker, curveball, mixing it up,'' Zimmerman said. ''Obviously we haven't faced him before. We got some guys on, he just made pitches when he needed to.''
David Peralta and Welington Castillo added back-to-back homers off Nationals starter Doug Fister (4-7) and Jake Lamb hit a high-arcing shot in the ninth in Jonathan Papelbon's home debut in Washington.
Fister allowed five runs over six innings, and has allowed four or more earned runs in six of nine starts since returning from the disabled list in early June following a forearm injury.
He said he simply hasn't been able to command his sinker.
''I'm just not executing every one of them, that's my biggest downfall right now. I've got to be more consistent,'' Fister said. ''When it's up in the zone, it's much easier to hit.''
Papelbon said before Monday's game that despite getting swept by the Mets this weekend, his new team has the makeup to handle a division race and the postseason.
''In the playoffs, the coolest cucumber always wins,'' said Papelbon, who was traded from Philadelphia to Washington last week. ''And I think that we've got a lot of cool guys on this team.''
OUT OF RIGHT FIELD
Arizona RF Ender Inciarte robbed Washington's Anthony Rendon of a single in the fourth when he charged Rendon's blooper, barehanded it on one bounce and threw out Yunel Escobar on a force at second base.
Diamondbacks: Manager Chip Hale said Arizona may decide to activate RHP Chase Anderson (triceps inflammation) after just one rehab start and go with a six-man starting rotation. ''We've been going around and round about what's best,'' Hale said. Anderson threw four scoreless innings in a Rookie Arizona League game Sunday.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (left oblique strain) struck out 11 batters and allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings for Triple-A Syracuse on Monday night, his second rehab start. CF Denard Span (back tightness) took ground balls in the outfield before Monday's game and will take live batting practice later this week, Williams said.
Arizona LHP Patrick Corbin (2-3, 3.21) looks for his first consecutive wins of the season against Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (11-8, 2.22), who is 2-0 with 1.29 ERA against his former team.