May 25, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) Slumping Nationals slugger Bryce Harper began Wednesday on the bench and then grounded out in the eighth as a pinch hitter and potential tying run.

Against Steven Matz, though, his struggles weren't unique.

Matz pitched a career-high eight innings to win his seventh consecutive start and help the New York Mets defeat the Washington Nationals 2-0.

Matz (7-1) has a 1.13 ERA over his winning streak, not allowing a run in four of those starts. The Nationals managed just four hits against him.

''He was throwing as hard in the eighth as he was in the first,'' Baker said.

Baker may have been resigned to his team's struggles against the hard-throwing rookie left-hander. But he's still trying to figure out a way to get Harper back on track.

The NL MVP began on the bench on what Baker called a ''mental day off,'' and is 0 for 10 over his last four games.

He is batting .200 since April 18 (20 for 100) and hasn't homered since May 13. Washington leads New York by a half-game in the NL East after losing two of three.

''This is probably the worst period Bryce has gone through,'' Baker said before the game. ''Every time you go through a bad period or a bad stretch, it's the worst time in your whole life, until the next time.''

Tanner Roark (3-4) allowed two runs - one earned - over seven innings for Washington.

Roark nearly matched Matz for seven innings, but he fell behind early when David Wright turned on a 0-1 fastball and sent a line-drive shot over the Mets' bullpen door in left.

''I need to get going the first inning, the first pitch of the game,'' Roark said. ''Bad execution on the fastball away, and it was up. It goes over the fence whenever the ball's up and it's not executed with conviction.''

Six innings later, Rivera hit Roark's 111th pitch into left field, scoring Matt Reynolds from third following at error by second baseman Daniel Murphy

''I thought Tanner threw the ball well enough to win, he really did.'' said Murphy, who committed his fifth error. ''I misplayed another ground ball, which just needs to stop happening. So I just need to work harder on that. He throws a double-play ball that should've gotten him out of the inning.''

Jeurys Familia allowed singles to Jayson Werth and Murphy starting the ninth, then got three straight outs to remain perfect in 16 save chances. It was just the second time the Nationals got a runner past first base.

SERIES-LY SPEAKING

Washington lost a home series for the second time this season. The Nationals have split six games against the Mets.

TRAINERS ROOM

CF Ben Revere was given a day off out of the starting lineup on a day game after a night game. He has started 16 of 19 games for Washington since returning from a right oblique strain in early May.

UP NEXT

RHP Joe Ross (3-4, 2.70) faces Cardinals RHP Mike Leake (3-3, 4.07) Thursday to open a four-game series.

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