NEW YORK -- One positive takeaway for the Mets during the final month of this season has been the September surge from catcher Travis d'Arnaud. He launched a pair of home runs Friday night, giving him a career-high 15 homers on the year, to power the Mets to a 7-6 victory over the Nationals at Citi Field.
"He's just swinging the bat really well, which we know he can do," Mets manager Terry Collins said of d'Arnaud, crediting the catcher's resurgence to a timeshare with Kevin Plawecki.
The loss drops Washington to five games behind Los Angeles in the race for the best record in the National League, with the Dodgers set to host the Giants on Friday night. After the Nationals arrived to New York in the wee hours of Friday morning, Nationals manager Dusty Baker decided to rest his starters for this game. The reserves had no issue with Mets right-hander Robert Gsellman, whom they tagged for six runs in five innings.
However, the struggles continued for right-hander Edwin Jackson. Gifted a 6-1 lead after a three-run homer by Adam Lind and a two-run triple from top prospectVictor Robles, Jackson gave up five runs in the fifth, highlighted by d'Arnaud's three-run homer.
Once seemingly on track to make the Nationals' postseason roster, Jackson has given up 22 runs in 16 innings (12.38 ERA) during his last four starts.
"That game was all on me," Jackson said. "The guys came out. They did more than I could ask for. We put up six runs. More times than not, you put up six runs, games don't go that way. That's a tough pill to swallow tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Familia locks it down: The Mets had been looking for a chance to let right-hander Jeurys Familia pitch in a save situation again, and they took advantage of that opportunity in a one-run game in the ninth. The Nats rallied to put runners at the corners with one out, and Mets manager Terry Collins pulled his closer AJ Ramos to match up situationally for the final two outs of the game. Left-hander Josh Smoker came into the game and retired the left-handed Lind. Then Familia entered the game to retire Robles to record his first save since May 5.
"It just feels really good to be able to help the team out," said Familia, who underwent arterial surgery in May. "But honestly, even those bad games I had, even those were milestones for me, because it just meant I was back here and pitching. You can't take that for granted." More >
And as Robles auditions for a spot on the Nats potential postseason roster, this was an opportunity for Baker to see his approach in a high-leverage situation.
"That was a tough guy to face in Familia, but, hey, you're going to face tough guys especially if you've got a chance to make the roster here," Baker said. "We have the luxury, we don't like to lose, but we have the luxury of trying to find out what they can do."
Robles flashes his speed: His playing time has been limited, but when Robles has played for the Nationals his speed has been impressive. He showed off his wheels again in the fifth inning, after he launched a ball over Juan Lagares' head in center field and raced to third base in 11.23 seconds. He now owns two of the Nationals' three fastest triples since Statcast™ tracking began in 2015.
"I feel great," Robles said through an interpreter. "I feel fine, relaxed. I feel like this is the league I've been playing at all year."
"We know how good this team could have been. But the reality is, you've got to get through it and grind it out, and we've tried to do that. I think tonight's a perfect example that we haven't cashed it in." -- Collins, on the notion that this could once have been a critical late-season series between the Mets and Nationals
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d'Arnaud became the first Mets catcher to hit 15 home runs since John Buck in 2013. The only other backstops in franchise history to hit 15 were Mike Piazza (six times), Todd Hundley (three times), Gary Carter (three times) and John Stearns (once).
"It's definitely nice," d'Arnaud said.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: Stephen Strasburg looks to stay on a roll when the Nats take on the Mets Saturday night at 7:10 p.m. ET at Citi Field. In his last six starts, Strasburg has allowed just three runs in 41 innings.
Mets: Noah Syndergaard will come off the disabled list Saturday, starting for the first time since he tore his right lat muscle April 30 in Washington. Syndergaard will throw one inning, followed by Matt Harvey, who will pitch the bulk of the game.