WASHINGTON (AP) The Washington Nationals took a chance signing Mat Latos to a minor league deal in June. The move paid off on a major league mound on Monday.
In his first big league start since June 7, Latos threw 4 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and one run with three walks and four strikeouts as the Nationals beat the New York Mets 8-1.
Latos also hit a solo home run and Antony Rendon added a three-run shot as the Nationals increased their lead over the Mets to 10 games in the Nationals League East.
''I was pleased with the fastball command,'' said Latos. ''I was able to make some pitches when I needed to. I really had an out pitch where I could put away some hitters.''
Latos had a solid first start with the Nationals, but left the game with one out in the fifth inning with hamstring tightness. He will be reevaluated Tuesday.
Reynaldo Lopez (3-3) was among three relievers to combine for 4 2/3 scoreless innings.
Latos signed with Washington in June after the Chicago White Sox released him. He was added to the Nationals' 40-man roster earlier this month.
''I've told him it's a chance to re-establish his value,'' said manager Dusty Baker, ''and get back on the board as a big-league pitcher and try to find a home and not go from team to team to team because he has good stuff.''
For the third straight outing Mets starter Rafael Montero (0-1) struggled with command. Montero walked three Nationals in the first inning, including Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos with the bases loaded.
Latos led off the second with a solo homer, before Daniel Murphy doubled and Harper was intentionally walked. The move backfired as Rendon then delivered his 18th homer of the season to put Washington ahead 6-1.
Montero allowed five hits and six runs in 1 2/3 innings with four walks and two strikeouts. Over his last three starts, Montero has allowed 14 walks in 11 innings.
Manager Terry Collins said Montero will not start again in five days.
''It's pretty frustrating, because he does have good stuff,'' Collins said. ''You can see when he's actually throwing strikes, you know, there's not a lot of good swings. But he gets himself in trouble because he gets behind in counts.''
Jose Reyes hit a leadoff double in the first and later scored on a Yoenis Cespedes RBI sac fly to give New York a short-lived 1-0 lead.
Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman added RBI singles for Washington.
BACKMAN NOT RETURNING:
Former Mets infielder Wally Backman will not return as the organization's Triple-A manager in 2017. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters that Backman ''has decided to move on,'' after working in New York's minor league system since 2010.
Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy has a hit in all 17 games against the Mets this season. According to the ELIAS Sports Bureau, that ties the record for the longest hit streak against the Mets in one season (Rennie Stennett in 1974, Luis Castillo in 2002 and Dee Gordon in 2015).
Mets: Infielder Wilmer Flores missed his second straight game with a stiff neck. Manager Terry Collins said that Flores tried to hit Monday afternoon but his neck remained sore. Flores was injured Saturday after a home plate collision with Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Nationals: Manager Dusty Baker is optimistic that RHP Joe Ross (shoulder inflammation) will soon be reinstated from the 60-day disabled list. Ross, who last pitched for the Nationals on July 2, threw a simulated game Saturday after making two rehab starts with Triple-A Syracuse.
Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard (13-8) looks to snap a personal three-game losing streak against the Nationals as he makes his fifth start of the season against the NL East leaders. Syndergaard threw seven innings and allowed two runs on three hits in a 4-1 loss to Washington Sept.2 at Citi Field.
Nationals: RHP A.J. Cole (1-1) will make his fifth start of the season Tuesday and his second against the Mets. Cole's best outing came Sept.2 in New York when he allowed one run and three hits over six innings for his first career Major League win.