WASHINGTON (AP) Matt Harvey has no idea when he will start again for the Mets. Until then, the right-hander can ponder a New York comeback that bailed him out in a big game
Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a tiebreaking, pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning off Jonathan Papelbon, and the resilient Mets rallied from a six-run deficit to beat the Washington Nationals 8-7 Tuesday night.
The Mets' second straight comeback win over Washington extended their lead in the NL East to six games. New York will seek to complete a sweep on Wednesday.
Harvey gave up a career high-tying seven runs on eight hits in 5 1-3 innings and left with New York trailing 7-1.
Harvey has thrown 171 2-3 innings this year, his first season since undergoing elbow ligament-replacement surgery in October 2013. He and the Mets want to keep his innings count at around 180-185 for the regular season, so it is possible this was Harvey's last start until early October or in the postseason.
''I'm ready whenever they decide.'' Harvey said. ''I think I have a couple mechanical things to work on, but whenever they decide to throw me back out there I'm going to be ready and I'm definitely excited for it.''
He's left it in the hands of the Mets.
''We'll get him ready for whenever he's going to pitch again and hopefully he relaxes and has a better night,'' manager Terry Collins said.
If the Mets can keep the Nationals at arm's length, they can save Harvey for when they really need him.
''I still believe Matt Harvey deep inside wants to pitch and we'll decide when he's going to pitch again because I know he wants to be out there and I know he wants to pitch in October,'' Collins said. ''But we're going to need him to get there.''
The Mets erased the deficit with a six-run seventh inning fueled by six walks and a wild pitch. The big blow was a three-run double by Yoenis Cespedes, who one inning earlier committed an error that allowed three runs to score.
Nieuwenhuis gave New York its first lead with a drive to right off Papelbon (3-2), obtained before the July 31 trade deadline to help Washington's drive toward the postseason. It was Nieuwenhuis' fourth home run; the other three came in one game against Arizona on July 12.
''We're playing like we don't have anything to lose, and that's what we need to do,'' Nieuwenhuis said. ''I'm just going to enjoy the ride.''
Addison Reed (3-2) worked the seventh and Jeurys Familia got three outs for his 38th save. With two runners on, Familia got Yunel Escobar to ground into a game-ending double play.
It was 3-1 in the sixth when the Nationals used a single, a walk and a bunt to load the bases. Wilson Ramos struck out before Michael Taylor lined an RBI single to center, and three more runs came home when the ball got past Cespedes and rolled to the wall.
The lead didn't last. Afterward, Washington manager Matt Williams got philosophical about dealing with defeat.
''In all of those guys' lives and in mine, there have been good times and bad times,'' he said. ''So we learn from the bad, appreciate the good, take nothing for granted and come with a fresh attitude tomorrow and go to work.''
The last time the Mets came back from six runs down was June 2, 2011, when they rallied from a 7-0 deficit to defeat the Pirates 9-8.
Mets: Collins expects RHP Carlos Torres, who left Monday's game with a left calf strain, to miss at least a week or two.
Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman was out of the starting lineup with a sore left oblique, an injury that occurred as he took a swing Monday. ''We're trying to calm that down as much as we can,'' Williams said. The hope is that Zimmerman can return Wednesday to extend a hitting streak that's reached 11 games.
ROSS TO BULLPEN
Nationals rookie Joe Ross (5-5, 3.79 ERA) was moved to the bullpen because he is near his maximum innings count this season. ''He's a little fatigued, so to ask him to go out every fifth day and pitch six innings would be unfair,'' Williams said. Ross will be replaced in the starting rotation by Tanner Roark.
Mets: Jacob deGrom (12-7, 2.40 ERA) pitches Wednesday night in the series finale. The right-hander is 9-3 with a 2.05 ERA over his last 19 starts.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (8-6, 4.35 ERA) returns after missing a start with upper back tightness. ''There will be no pitch limitations. We think he's going to pitch admirably,'' general manager Mike Rizzo said.