NEW YORK -- A billboard greeted fans coming off the Grand Central Parkway on Saturday, trumpeting Yoenis Cespedes' arrival in Queens. But it was an old face, Lucas Duda, who almost single-handedly lifted the Mets to a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Nationals, moving New York within a game of first place in the National League East.
Before the second-largest regular-season crowd in Citi Field history, Duda hit a pair of solo homers to make up a two-run deficit, then laced a go-ahead RBI double in the eighth. He now has eight home runs in his last seven games, including two off Nationals starter Joe Ross.
"That's pretty awesome," Duda said. "The fans have been great all year, especially the last two nights. They've been essential to us winning. I can't say enough about the fans -- best fans in baseball."
Mets starter Jacob deGrom gave up his only runs on Ian Desmond's single in the first inning, gutting out five scoreless frames after that. He threw a season-high 117 pitches, with both he and Ross taking no-decisions.
"For sure, we thought we were going to score some runs," manager Terry Collins said of the Mets' early deficit against Ross. "That young man is an outstanding young pitcher. He's got great stuff, but you just said, 'You know what, this is a big series, guys are keyed up, I think we'll score some runs.'"
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Duda, Duda, Duda: With a man on second and one out in the eighth, Nationals manager Matt Williams elected to intentionally walk Cespedes, despite Duda having already homered twice in the game. Duda made him pay with a double, snapping a personal string that saw his previous eight hits result in home runs. The Mets first baseman also single-handedly tied things on solo homers off Ross in the fourth and seventh innings, the first of them projected by Statcast™ to land 446 feet away. More >
"I was surprised," Cespedes said of his intentional walk that led to Duda's double. "I didn't think for a minute they would walk me."
Not bad for Joe: Ross continues to show that he has a bright future in baseball. One problem, though. Duda hit two mammoth home runs against the right-hander. The second one tied the score at 2 in the seventh. Ross ended up pitching 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out six.
"He was hitting the ball hard," Ross said. "Those home runs, they were OK pitches. I wouldn't say down the middle. Obviously, he has a lot of power. I kind of learned my lesson. Be a little more careful next time." More >
Welcome, Yoenis: Cespedes brought much of the sold-out Citi Field crowd to its feet with a potential game-tying homer in the sixth inning, which landed approximately 20 feet foul. His Mets debut was otherwise quiet, consisting of two groundouts, a strikeout and his intentional walk.
"The stadium was just how I liked to play," Cespedes said through an interpreter. "It was full, it was full of energy, a lot of screaming fans. So I enjoyed that." More >
Where's the offense? The Nationals got off to a good start, scoring two runs in the first inning. Desmond highlighted the scoring with a two-run single. After that, the Nationals collected four singles the rest of the way.
"I think it's a combination of quality pitchers on the other side, some guys coming back from injuries," Williams said. "They have to get some timing back. We have confidence in those guys. Zim [Ryan Zimmerman] swung the bat good tonight. Anthony [Rendon] and Jayson [Werth] are getting there on their timing. Combination of all those things." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Duda's homers gave him three homers against the Ross brothers -- Joe and Tyson, who plays for the Padres -- in a four-game span. Impressive, but also impressive is this: The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the last player to homer off a pair of brothers in the same game was Lance Berkman, who went deep against Andy and Alan Benes on July 23, 2000.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
After striking out in six consecutive plate appearances, Nats outfielder Michael Taylor tried to change his luck with a bunt attempt to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Mets third baseman Daniel Murphy barehanded it and fired to first, easily beating Taylor to the bag. The Nats challenged, believing Duda might have come off the base, but a 39-second replay review was all umpires needed to confirm their initial ruling.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: They play the final game of a three-game series against the Mets at 8:08 p.m. ET on Sunday night. Jordan Zimmermann will make the start for Washington. He has faced the Mets more than any other opponent. He is 8-5 with a 2.96 ERA against them in his career.
Mets: Since June 26, Noah Syndergaard is 3-1 with a 1.29 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 10 walks in 42 innings. He'll put those numbers on the line in Sunday's series finale against the Nationals at Citi Field.