WASHINGTON -- In a reversal of a meeting between the same two pitchers last week, the Mets hammered left-hander Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals and rode a strong start from Bartolo Colon to a 7-1 victory at Nationals Park on Monday night. New York pulled to within a half-game of Washington in the National League East with the win.
The Mets unleashed a flurry of offense against Gonzalez that included seven runs on 10 hits, including three home runs. David Wright smashed a three-run homer as part of a five-run third inning and Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker hit back-to-back homers in the fifth.
"It turns into like a feeding frenzy," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "We've seen that on our side when they start first-ball hitting, and they smell blood in the water. So it happened, and next thing you know it was five runs."
"Gio's been pitching great," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We just went up there and put some really good at-bats on him. I thought David's home run just really kick-started us."
Washington took two of three from the Mets when the two teams met in New York last week, but the Nats were kept off-balance by Colon in this game. The Nationals managed just one run on five hits against Colon, who struck out two and walked a pair in seven innings.
"He was locating his fastball, kind off changing speeds on that, making pitches when he needed to," Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "We had a couple chances to get some hits and score some runs, but he made pitches."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Wright leads Mets' hit parade: With each significant hit, the narrative of Wright's season is shifting. Two days after Wright hit a walk-off single against the Brewers, he opened the Mets' scoring against Gonzalez with a three-run homer in the third. That was the second of five consecutive hits for the Mets, who also received an Asdrubal Cabrera RBI single and an Eric Campbell sacrifice fly. The Mets' five runs in the inning were one more than they had scored in their last six games against Gonzalez combined. More >
"That's something that was a lot different here versus Gio than back at home," Wright said, referring to Gonzalez's 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball last week in New York. "Instead of missing his mistakes or fouling them back, we hit them and hit them hard."
Worst start of the year: One of the most surprising elements of the Nationals' strong start this season has been that Gonzalez has been perhaps the club's most consistent pitcher. He began this start with a 1.86 ERA, the best on the team, but that number increased by a full run to 2.87 after this disastrous outing. It's the first time Gonzalez has allowed seven earned runs in a start since May 11, 2014, against the A's. More >
"I just left pitches up. That was it. Just one of those nights," Gonzalez said. "They saw a pitch up and they were making contact. In that inning there were hitters being aggressive first pitch, got hits, and then they started being patient and waiting for that pitch. I go back to saying the ball was flat. It stayed up in the zone."
Back-to-back: Not done scoring, the Mets hit back-to-back homers for the seventh time this season in the fifth. First it was Cespedes, who reclaimed sole possession of the Major League lead with his 15th homer. Walker followed with his 11th homer of the year, and fourth as a right-handed batter. Walker did not hit a homer from the right side last season.
Cespedes credited his recent success to a new habit of eschewing on-field batting practice in favor of more mechanical work in an indoor cage.
"That really helps me more on the technical side," Cespedes said.
Holding it down: After Gonzalez's early exit, three Nationals relievers -- Blake Treinen, Yusmeiro Petit and Sammy Solis -- combined to allow one hit in four scoreless innings with three strikeouts. Washington's bullpen has allowed two earned runs during its past 36 1/3 innings dating back to May 9, the best bullpen ERA (0.50) during that stretch.
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The Mets have now scored 55.7 percent of their runs this season on homers, the highest percentage in Major League Baseball. The next-closest NL team, the Reds, came into Monday's play having plated just 44.3 percent of their runs on homers.
I PROMISE, I WON'T SWING
Colon's night ended after seven innings and just 90 pitches, in part because he has been dealing with a sore lower back. To protect it, he decided before the game that he would not swing in any of his at-bats. Colon went as far as to quip to Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos: "I promise you. Throw it right down the middle. I'm not going to swing."
He finished 0-for-3 with three strikeouts at the plate, though the back issue did not seem to affect Colon on the mound.
"This is the best he's pitched in certainly his last three starts," Collins said. "Just great command of his stuff, in and out, up and down. … But he said, 'I'm not going to hit a homer tonight.'"
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon appeared to commit his fourth error of the season in the eighth inning, throwing wide of first on a soft Campbell grounder. But after a brief video review, the call was overturned, ruling Zimmerman touched first with the ball in his glove.
WHAT'S NEXT Mets: After receiving a vote of confidence from Mets coaches, Matt Harvey will return to the mound to rematch a Nationals team that shredded him for a career-high nine runs last time out at Citi Field. The Mets will be watching closely to see if Harvey, who carries a 5.77 ERA into Nationals Park, can return to form in the 7:05 p.m. ET game.
Nationals:Stephen Strasburg will meet the Mets on Tuesday for his second consecutive start after striking out 10 in six innings of one-run ball in a victory at Citi Field on Thursday. The Nationals have won a franchise-record 13 consecutive starts with him on the mound.