Their NL East rivals were a red-hot team with a six-game winning streak and wins in 13 of their previous 14 heading into the matchup.
“They’re playing great,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies in an interview on Friday morning.
“That pitching staff they have always gives them a chance to win each and every day. Their rotation is great. They’ve got some good young hitters there, and they’re playing good, inspired baseball. I often say it’s not who you play, it’s when you play them and we’re getting the Mets when they’re really, really hot and it will be a fun weekend here in New York.”
It was not exactly a fun weekend for Washington.
Davey Martinez’s club held the lead in the eighth inning in each of the first two games, but they blew both leads, leaving the Nationals with a streak of five straight games in New York in which they led in the eighth and lost to the Mets.
Martinez talked after Saturday’s 4-3 heartbreaker, about staying focused and going into the series finale looking to salvage one on the road.
“You’re looking at a Mets team that’s surging right now and they’re putting the ball in play,” the second-year skipper told reporters. “They’re hitting home runs. We’ve just got to make our pitches and keep battling. Like I said, I believe in the guys, and we’ve got to stay in the fight, and that’s all it takes. We’ve got a lot of baseball left I tell you that right now, but it’s going to be like this for the rest of the year. We’re fighting to get in the playoffs, they’re fighting to get in the playoffs, so it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I believe in those boys in that clubhouse. People kicked us. We were down. And you saw what they can do, so not by any means are we down. We’re right there, so let’s come back tomorrow and do it again.”
“We’ve got to come back tomorrow and will it,” Martinez said. “I told the boys, ‘Hey, we’ve got to will it tomorrow, just come out and keep playing baseball and let’s come out on top.”
They were, however, going up against a team in the Mets that was up to eight-straight wins and 15 of 16 overall at that point.
“[The Mets are] on a hot streak now,” Patrick Corbin said, after surrendering two runs on three hits in six innings in Saturday’s game.
“We’ve gone through it this year,” the lefty added. “It’s not like we’re playing bad baseball right now. It’s two games, there’s a long season left.”
“We’ve just come back all the way from the West Coast where we swept the Giants over there,” Yan Gomes told reporters in Citi Field, “they were a team that [was] kind of hot.
“We’re just playing a good team at a time that they’re hot ... they’re scoring late, but we’ve got a little ways to go. It’s our turn to get hot, and August and September baseball is going to be fun, and that’s what we play for.”
“I tell the guys, we play pitch to pitch, and keep fighting,” Martinez said. “Keep fighting.”
“They came back, tied the game, and then here we go again,” he said of Saturday’s loss, “... we come back and score another run, and like I said to the boys, just stay in the fight, you never know what’s going to happen, and like I said, we came out on the short end again today, but we’ve got another game tomorrow, so let’s come back tomorrow and try to come out on top.”
The Nationals jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the series finale, but an inning later the Mets tied it up at 3-3. Asdrúbal Cabrera drove in two with a double in the top of the seventh, but the home team answered back with one in the bottom of the inning, and it was a one-run game until Victor Robles hit a two-run blast in the top of the ninth, 7-4.
Sean Doolittle, whose struggles against the Mets this season cost the Nationals the series opener, came out in the home-half of the ninth and retired the side in order to end it and earn the save.
“Good way to end a long, hard-fought series, really,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ six-game losing streak in Citi Field came to an end. “I mean, it was a lot of energy these three days, a lot of fun, and you could see that. Our players, they were engaged, they were in it for three games and we came [out] on top today.”
Aníbal Sánchez was out after five innings, so the Nats needed four innings from a bullpen that blew two leads in the first two games, but the relief corps (Tanner Rainey, Matt Grace, Hunter Strickland, Daniel Hudson, Wander Suero, and Doolittle) locked it down.
“They came in and they gave us four innings, and those guys, they’re swinging the bats, they’re playing well, so this is going to be a dogfight all year long, and it’s fun and I love it, and it’s exciting, so let’s go home, get on that train, go home this week and play at home this week and do it again.”