NEW YORK -- Wilmer Flores' flair for the dramatic has meshed with his battle for playing time in a most beneficial way for the Mets. Flores came off the bench on Thursday to crack a go-ahead three-run home run, leading the Mets to a record-setting 9-7 victory over the Nationals. The win moved the Mets to within three games of the division-leading Nats.
"I thought coming in this was a huge homestand, including these four games," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We've got to do everything we can to get as close as we can. … It's a big series for us."
With temperatures in the 80s and humidity hovering above 80 percent on a classic summer night in Queens, conditions were ideal for the Mets and Nationals to scribble all over Citi Field's seven-year-old history books, combining for a ballpark-record eight home runs. None loomed larger than Flores' three-run shot off Oliver Perez, which gave the Mets their first lead in the fifth.
Three of Washington's homers came an inning earlier off Mets starter Bartolo Colon, including back-to-back shots from Clint Robinson and Anthony Rendon. But the Mets tied the game in the bottom of the fourth with a two-homer, three-run rally of their own.
Neither Colon nor Nationals starter Lucas Giolito hung around long enough to factor into the decision. Both pitchers struggled, giving up a combined 10 runs in 8 1/3 innings in a game that saw the Mets and Nats combine for 16 runs, 27 hits, 14 extra-base hits and 11 walks. The night ended only after Asdrubal Cabrera started a contentious, interference-aided, 6-4-3 double play in the ninth, prompting a replay review and plenty of disagreement from Washington's bench.
"This was a serious National League game," Mets second baseman Neil Walker said. "There were a lot of moving parts. There was a lot of managing. There was a lot of double-switching, this and that. In the midst of that, you just have to keep grinding. You've got to keep going. You've got to try to give yourself a couple-run cushion, because you never know when somebody's going to come up with a big hit."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Freed Wilmer: To accommodate Jose Reyes, who started at third base and hit his first home run since rejoining the Mets, Flores began the game on the bench. But after entering as part of a double switch in the top of the fifth, Flores came to the plate in the bottom of the inning with two men on base, one out and the Mets trailing by two runs. The fan favorite launched the first fastball he saw into the left-field seats, earning a curtain call from Citi Field's crowd for his efforts.
"Definitely a good feeling," Flores said. "An amazing feeling. The fans here, they support us 100 percent. It's really fun." More >
A game to forget: Giolito, the No. 1 prospect in baseball, lasted 3 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on seven hits with four walks and one balk. He was given a 4-1 lead, but Giolito couldn't get the third out of the fourth inning. After Reyes homered, Giolito allowed two doubles and a walk before exiting the game in favor of Perez. Giolito said he didn't have good command from the start of the game.
"Once I started giving up a lot of contact, the game started to speed up. I kind of sped up with the game," Giolito said. "I was like rushing through everything. I left a lot of balls up, not commanding the fastball, [not] commanding the curveball for a strike either, which is kind of key." More >
Jose, way, way gone: An inning before Flores' dramatics, it was Reyes who helped spark the Mets, blasting a solo homer to the second deck in right. Travis d'Arnaud also homered in the inning, and Cabrera added a solo shot in the sixth to give the Mets four home runs in a three-inning span.
Perez over Petit:Yusmeiro Petit is the Nationals' long man and has been solid this season, but after Giolito was taken out of the game, manager Dusty Baker put in Perez, who allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Baker said he didn't have a choice but to use Perez in the early innings because he was short on relievers. Blake Treinen and Felipe Rivero were not available.
"We were short in the bullpen, we are short on the bench," Baker said. "Petit can go multiple innings, but if you don't have the personnel to make a double switch, then you are really stuck. If you use Petit, you [have to] let Petit hit like I let Perez hit tonight. We were outmanned tonight."
"We fought back, they fought back. It was probably a heck of a game to watch, but it was a terrible game to lose. We couldn't stop them from scoring." -- Baker
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With a single in the fifth inning and a double in the sixth, Perez submitted his fifth career multihit game, but his first since May 2, 2007, when he was a starting pitcher for the Mets. Entering the night, Perez had received only one plate appearance since becoming a full-time reliever in 2012. His performance made him the league's first relief pitcher to record a multihit game since Esmil Rogers for the Rockies in '11.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the fifth inning, it looked like Daniel Murphy hit into an inning-ending double play, but Baker challenged the call. After a review, the call was overturned, Murphy was safe at first and Perez scored on the play.
In the ninth inning, it looked like Murphy hit into a force play, but second-base umpire Jim Joyce said Jayson Werth slid into second base illegally, resulting in interference and both Werth and Murphy being called out. The Nationals challenged the call, but it stood after a review.
"I've been told four or five different things from four or five different umpiring crews about the rules," Baker said. "Last time, I was told it was going to be a common-sense-type thing, but there is no play at first base. … I told Jim I was going to appeal it in New York. They made the call and they said the call was going to stand." More >
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals:Stephen Strasburg takes the mound for the Nationals in a 7:10 p.m. ET game on Friday. On Sunday, Strasburg threw 6 2/3 no-hit innings in his first start back from the disabled list. He has beaten the Mets twice this year, allowing three runs in 12 2/3 innings. This will be Strasburg's last start before the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard in San Diego, where he is a candidate to be the starter for the National League.
Mets:Noah Syndergaard will make his final first-half start when the Mets and Nationals reunite at Citi Field. It will be Syndergaard's final chance to show Collins, the NL's manager, that he deserves to start the All-Star Game over Strasburg, Jake Arrieta, Jose Fernandez and other standouts.