New York Mets manager Terry Collins, left, waits to celebrate with David Wright, right, after his three-run homer during the third inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, May 23, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo
Alex Brandon
May 23, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) Bartolo Colon's back was bothering him enough that he told New York Mets manager Terry Collins he wouldn't be able to hit another memorable home run. The heart of the lineup took care of that.

David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker connected on the day slugger Lucas Duda went on the disabled list, leading the Mets past the Washington Nationals 7-1 Monday night.

With Duda out at least four to six weeks with a stress fracture in his lower back, the Mets are missing a serious threat. But they showed they still have plenty of power, and they lead the National League with 63 home runs.

''It's a very difficult task to replace Duda,'' Cespedes said through a translator after hitting his major league-leading 15th home run. ''I think we're all aware, for the rest of us that are here, that we really have to step up.''

Wright hit a three-run shot off Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (3-2) during a five-run third inning, and Cespedes and Walker went back-to-back in the fifth. As impressive as that show of power was, Collins was impressed by how his team strung together five consecutive hits in the third.

The key, of course, was Wright's fifth home run that bounced off the railing in left field to the delight of Mets fans who withstood an hour-long rain delay.

''I'm still not feeling great up there, but I think my at-bats are slowly getting a little better,'' Wright said. ''Obviously, the first step in that is that you've got to see some results, you've got to see some production (so) you can get that consistency.''

Consistency was the key for Colon (4-3), who allowed one run and five hits in seven efficient innings on the eve of his 43rd birthday. Baseball's oldest player struck out two and walked two despite a stiff lower back.

Colon worked with ease through Washington's lineup, which was mostly listless after the first inning. Ex-Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy continued his hot start by going 2 for 4.

At the plate, Colon did his best to not contribute to Gonzalez's rough night, telling catcher Wilson Ramos he wasn't going to swing.

''I swing at the balls pretty hard and I thought, not worth making my back worse, so I told their catcher from the beginning, `Just throw it right down the middle, I'm not swinging,''' Colon said through a translator. ''After that first at-bat and they threw me that changeup, I was like: `No, I promise you. Throw it right down the middle. I am not going to swing.'''

Though Colon kept the bat on his shoulder, Mets batters got 10 hits off Gonzalez, who endured his worst outing of the season. Pitching to Ramos for the first time this year, the lefty allowed seven runs and 10 hits, struck out seven and didn't walk a batter in five innings.

''I was just missing up,'' said Gonzalez, whose ERA rose from 1.86 to 2.87. ''Just felt like there was nothing behind every pitch I was throwing. Some of the pitches I was throwing were pretty flat. You tip your cap. They hit, and they were swinging the bat.''

Other than Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI, the Nationals weren't swinging the bats well. NL MVP Bryce Harper went hitless for the second straight game and is batting .220 in his last 100 at-bats.

''All you can do right now is give him some love,'' Washington manager Dusty Baker said. ''Right now, the No. 1 thing that's not giving him love is his bat.''

Wright is lacking the same love, with 21 hits in his last 100 at-bats going into Monday. Those struggles were temporarily relieved by his home run that Collins said ''kick-started'' the Mets.

''He's going to get hot. He's going to have some weeks where he's not feeling great and yet still play,'' Collins said. ''The one thing we know is this guy's a good baseball player and still will be a good baseball player.''

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) will begin his rehabilitation assignment Tuesday with Double-A Binghamton. Collins said he didn't know if Flores would come off the disabled list Friday when eligible.

Nationals: RHP Matt Belisle (calf strain) began his rehab assignment with Class A Potomac, allowing a hit and striking out one in one inning.

UP NEXT

Struggling Mets RHP Matt Harvey (3-6, 5.77) looks to get back on track against undefeated Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-0, 2.80) in the second game of the series.

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