NEW YORK -- The Mets fell into a familiar pattern over the first two months of this season, playing well at times only to lose difficult games on Sunday afternoons. Some of their most memorable losses came with the sun up on Sundays, including a blowout in Washington on the final day of April.
Behind Jacob deGrom's dominant outing and first career homer, the Mets reversed that script on a sunny Father's Day Sunday at Citi Field, winning a 5-1 game over the Nationals to avoid a series sweep.
"We knew he was going to be tough going into today because they don't want to be swept at home. You know, four-game series, [it's] always tough to do," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.
T.J. Rivera finished 4-for-4, while Michael Conforto collected two hits and drove home a pair off Nats starter Joe Ross, who entered Sunday averaging 10.6 runs of support in his previous eight starts. He received just one in this one, on a Ryan Zimmerman sacrifice fly in the first inning.
For most of the afternoon, deGrom simply overpowered the Nationals, completing eight innings for the third time in five starts. His highlight was a game-tying home run off Ross in the third, one inning before Travis d'Arnaud's single gave the Mets their first lead of the series.
"They're a great team -- I think we know that," Rivera said. "We've just got to keep competing. It's tough to lose the series, but it's nice to end it on a good note. Hopefully we can keep this thing going."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Jacob has left the building: The Mets couldn't break through against Ross until deGrom stepped to the plate in the third inning, leading off with a 379-foot home run to left-center. It was New York's first home run by a pitcher since Noah Syndergaard went deep last Aug. 16 against Arizona and their first at Citi Field since Matt Harvey went yard on July 11, 2015, also against the D-backs. More important for the Mets, it tied the game at 1.
"I think I got lucky," deGrom said, laughing. "I was running pretty hard. I didn't know it was gone." More >
Taking advantage: Due to some sloppy defense, the Nationals actually held an early lead against deGrom. After Brian Goodwin reached on a Wilmer Flores fielding error with one out in the first inning, Bryce Harper singled to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Zimmerman followed with the sac fly to give the Nats a 1-0 edge.
"Don't pick up the newspapers. Just go win baseball games. The only thing you can control is how you play. If you go win games, you'll get back in the race." -- Mets manager Terry Collins
"He pitched well enough to win," -- Baker, on Ross' outing
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With a ninth-inning double off Addison Reed, Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy extended his streak of reaching base against his former team to all 29 games he has played against them.
"Murph doesn't give at-bats away," Baker said. "That's number one. I mean, the real good hitters don't give at-bats away. Murph's a grinder. It doesn't matter who they're playing, but he probably gets special motivation playing here. He played a bunch of games here and feels very comfortable in this ballpark."
Shortstop Trea Turner swiped four bases against deGrom and Mets catcher d'Arnaud, the most by a Nationals player since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005.
"Any time you can do something like that, it's special and not something you want to take for granted," Turner said. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: The Nats will look to feast on another National League East opponent when they open a three-game set in Miami on Monday. Tanner Roark, who owns a 6.29 ERA in his past three starts, will start for the Nationals, while Justin Nicolino and his lifetime 8.10 ERA against Washington takes the mound for the Marlins. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Mets: A struggling Mets team will receive no reprieve out West, where the Dodgers have three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw lined up to face them Monday in Los Angeles. Kershaw will oppose Zack Wheeler in the 10:10 p.m. ET opener of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium, kicking off an 11-day, 10-game, three-city road trip for the Mets.