Bill Ladson

Nats blast Mets to trim magic number to six

Harper belts key early home run, while Fister picks up his 14th win

Nats blast Mets to trim magic number to six

NEW YORK -- The Nationals lowered their magic number to win the National East title to six games as they pounded the Mets, 10-3, on Saturday night at Citi Field. Earlier in the day, the Braves were edged by the Rangers, 3-2, in Arlington.

Bryce Harper was one of the heroes for Washington and it started against right-hander Zach Wheeler in the second inning. After Ian Desmond led off with a walk, Harper belted a 3-2 pitch for a two-run homer that landed in the second deck in right field. Harper ended up with three hits in the win.

"From one to nine, I think everybody was swinging the bat," Harper said. "We jumped on a great pitcher like Wheeler early. That was key. I think we did pretty well as a team."

An inning later, it was Desmond who scored the third run of the game. With runners on first and second and Asdrubal Cabrera at the plate, Desmond stole third base -- his 20th theft of the season -- and scored on a throwing error by catcher Travis d'Arnaud to make it 3-0.

Desmond joins Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and Alex Rodriguez as the only shortstops in Major League history to go 20/20 (homers and stolen bases) at least three times. Desmond didn't even know which players were on the historical short list.

"This is something I'm not going talk too much about," Desmond said. I'm really happy where we are at as a team. We are playing pretty good baseball. It's just an exciting time of the year for everybody."

After five innings, the Nationals held a 6-0 lead. Desmond capped a three-run fifth with a two-run single off Gonzalez Germen. Desmond finished with three RBIs. The runs were charged to Wheeler, who lasted four-plus innings and allowed the six runs on seven hits.

Wheeler figured out that his fastball didn't have the life that it had in previous starts.

"They got the best of me tonight and hopefully I can turn it around next start," Wheeler said. "Yeah, something was wrong with my mechanics, I couldn't figure it out. I came in looked at the videotape, still couldn't figure it out. So I just felt a little awkward, different out there and hopefully me and [pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] can figure it out between now and the next start. "

Washington starter Doug Fister picked up his 14th victory. He lasted six innings, allowed three runs [two earned] and struck out three batters. He threw only 75 pitches, but he left the game for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. Manager Matt Williams wanted to add more runs and he had plenty of help in the bullpen.

But the biggest blow for Fister came in the fifth inning when Wilmer Flores hit a two-run homer.

"He allowed the home run to Flores, but other than that, he pitched really well," Williams said. "He got out of some jams."

The Nationals (84-63), who lead the Braves by 9 1/2 games in the division standings, scored their seventh run against right-hander Buddy Carlyle when Werth hit into a fielder's choice that scored Span, who later belted a two-run homer in the ninth.

For Werth, it was his 80th RBI of the season. The Nationals now have four players -- Werth, Desmond, Rendon and Adam LaRoche with 80 RBIs or more. It shows the balance the club has on offense. It helps to have table-setters like Span and Rendon because they see a lot of pitches and get on base for the rest of the lineup.

"We don't have that one superstar. We all do it as a team," said Rendon, who went 4-for-5. "Any one of our guys, at any time, can beat you. That's what's awesome about this team."

Said Williams, "It tells me we have pretty good on-base guys and guys are out there. We have some guys with some homers, not 40 [homers], not 120 [RBIs]. We have guys who have been consistent. That's good. If we can get a deep lineup, we feel good about our offense. That's just speaks to consistency and guys being on base."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.