WASHINGTON -- Steven Matz and Tanner Roark found themselves in a pitchers' duel on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park, but it was Matz who came out on top, helping the Mets blank the Nationals, 2-0. New York, which took two out of three games in the series, is a half-game behind Washington in the National League East.
"It's just two good teams," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "Hopefully we can beat these guys on a consistent basis, but I don't foresee this being a one-sided affair this year."
In his first career start vs. the Nationals, Matz allowed four hits and struck out seven over eight innings, at one point retiring 16 in a row. The Nationals had runners in scoring position only once against him, which occurred in the second inning. They had runners on first and second with one out, but Danny Espinosa flied out to left fielder Michael Conforto and Roark flied out to center fielder Yoenis Cespedes to end the threat.
"Matz was throwing as hard in the eighth inning as he was in the first," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "He threw one heck of a game. You don't see lefties throwing 94, 95 [mph] consistently. He had a good changeup. He was dotting the outside part of the plate. Sometimes you are dominated. He was very determined. He is a good athlete. I was looking at him, and he reminded me of Jon Matlack back in my day. Matz was throwing the heck out of the ball."
Roark was nearly as good, lasting seven innings and allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits. The first run was scored in the first inning, when Wright clubbed an 0-1 pitch into the left-field bullpen for his second homer of the series.
Daniel Murphy's defense cost Washington another run in the seventh inning. With a runner on first, Eric Campbell hit what looked like a perfect double-play ball to Murphy, who let the ball go under his glove for an error. That put runners on first and third, and Rene Rivera followed with an RBI single to left field.
"Tanner should have got out of that inning, 1-0," Murphy said. "I misplayed another ground ball, which needs to stop happening. I need to work harder on that. Tanner throws a double-play ball to get out of the inning. It makes it 2-0. It changes our approach from an offensive perspective."
The Nats hit two consecutive singles to start the ninth before Jeurys Familia escaped with his 16th save of the season -- and he set a Mets record with 32 consecutive regular-season save conversions dating back to last year.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Making it look easy: After wriggling out of trouble in the second inning, and allowing a leadoff hit in the third, Matz turned unhittable. Proceeding with his usual brisk pace on the mound, Matz retired 16 in a row from the third through eighth innings. Pinch-hitter Clint Robinson's seeing-eye single with two outs in the eighth snapped that streak, but Matz responded by retiring pinch-hitter Bryce Harper to complete his afternoon. He is 7-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his last seven starts.
"I just feel really comfortable on the mound," Matz said. "For your manager to have faith to leave you out to face the greatest hitter in the game right now is pretty awesome." More >
No help from Nats hitters: The Nationals collected six hits in a game where Harper and Ben Revere were out of the starting lineup. After Matz exited, Jayson Werth and Murphy began the ninth with consecutive singles before Ryan Zimmerman struck out, Anthony Rendon grounded sharply into a fielder's choice and Wilson Ramos grounded to third to end the game. The Nats went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. More >
Finding his groove: Wright has driven in a run in three of his last four games, including a walk-off single Saturday against the Brewers and a pair of home runs this week in Washington. The latest of those was his solo shot in the first inning off Roark, giving the Mets the only lead they would need. Wright's four homers in May are his most in any calendar month since June 2013.
Said Wright: "Hopefully I can lock it in mentally, how it kind of feels -- the swing, the pitch selection, the rhythm, the timing, and things like that -- and start to be more consistent."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Nationals dropped their second series at Nationals Park. The first came at the hands of the Phillies, April 26-28.
After Chris Heisey struck out looking in the fifth, Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu was ejected from the game for arguing balls and strikes, perhaps trying to protect Heisey, who was also expressing his displeasure.
"There was frustration built throughout the course of the day," Baker said. "Both sides were complaining. [Home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn] had a high strike zone. Some of those balls were up, but you have to adjust to the umpire."
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
Though Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was an official participant in Wednesday's game, he never actually stepped onto the field due to back spasms. Cabrera's spot in the batting order did not come up in the top of the first, and he didn't emerge for defense in the bottom of the inning. More >
Matt Reynolds replaced Cabrera and recorded his first Major League hit, a single in the fifth, after starting his career 0-for-6. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Mets: Following an off-day Thursday, the Mets will welcome the Dodgers for the first of three games Friday in New York at 7:10 p.m. ET. Jacob deGrom will oppose left-hander Alex Wood in the opener at Citi Field, where the Mets will be celebrating their 1986 club all weekend.
Nationals: The Nats begin a four-game series against the Cardinals starting Thursday night at 7:05 ET. Right-hander Joe Ross, who allowed one run on six hits over six innings when he last faced the Cards on April 30 for a victory, gets the call for the opener.