WASHINGTON -- It was Yoenis Cespedes who flared the go-ahead hit into center field just past midnight Monday morning, delivering the Mets' fifth straight victory, though admittedly it could have been anyone. In matching their 1985 and 2006 predecessors for the best eight-game start in franchise history, the 7-1 Mets have left few potential contributors untapped.
Sunday, it was Cespedes, who overcame flu-like symptoms to drive home the final run of a 6-5 win, capping a three-game sweep of the Nationals. But it was also rookie Jacob Rhame, who recorded the final three outs for his first career save. It was Seth Lugo, who wriggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the ninth, then gave the Mets two additional innings of shutout relief.
It was Adrian Gonzalez, whose third-inning grand slam ensured the Mets would erase all five leads the Nationals took this series. It was Asdrubal Cabrera, whose .920 OPS in eight games seems lost amidst the bonanza unfolding around him. It was Mickey Callaway, whose managerial moves have been both conventional and alternative, but always somehow correct.
• A-Gon's first Mets homer a clutch grand slam
The Mets know as well as anyone that a 7-1 start means little with 154 games left to play. They are five percent of the way through the season.
They just couldn't have hoped for a better five percent.
"In the six years that I've been in the Major Leagues, this is the best team I've ever been on," Cespedes said through an interpreter. "We've been showing it. And we will keep proving that."
Mostly, the Mets have proven uncommonly resilient, jumping out to their hot start despite trailing in five of the eight games they've played. Sunday's headliner, Matt Harvey, again put them behind when he allowed Bryce Harper's two-run homer -- one of Harper's five times on base -- in the first inning. The Mets took their initial lead on Gonzalez's slam in the third, but Harvey and Robert Gsellman couldn't hold it.
Again, however, Callaway's end-game machinations gave them life. After Harper drew a leadoff walk in the ninth, Lugo loaded the bases on consecutive one-out intentional walks. He then struck out Michael A. Taylor and Pedro Severino in succession to force extra innings. The Mets went quietly until the 12th, when pinch-hitter Juan Lagares led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Cespedes' flare.
That capped the Mets' first sweep of the Nationals since Sept. 7-9, 2015, when they took three straight to all but seal their lone division title this decade.
"The guys are playing the game the right way," Callaway said.
"They're going to compete every day," added Nationals manager Dave Martinez. "Not by any means are you thinking they're gonna lay down and let us beat them."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Lugo escapes bases loaded jam: The Nationals' best chance to walk off came in the ninth, after an eighth-inning caught stealing during Harper's at-bat gave him a chance to lead off against a right-handed pitcher, Lugo, instead of lefty specialist Jerry Blevins. Harper began the ninth with a walk, advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw and then moved to third a flyout to center field. But Callaway elected to intentionally walk Howie Kendrick and Trea Turner to load the bases. Lugo responded by striking out both Taylor and Severino to escape the jam.
"We're having a lot of fun in here to keep that energy rolling," Lugo said. "That's big for us."
Rhame slams the door: Because Mets closer Jeurys Familia recorded a five-out save on Saturday, he was unavailable to pitch Sunday. With AJ Ramos already out of the game, that left the Mets with just two choices for the 12th: Rhame and Paul Sewald. Callaway opted for the rookie, who hit 96 mph, pitching around a two-out double to record his first career save.
"I've never been in that situation," said Rhame, who plans to give the game ball to his father. "So it was a lot of fun."
"The way we've started is huge in itself. Coming in here and doing what we did, that's incredibly important. And the way that we pulled out the win today and kept battling and kept fighting, it shows a lot about this team and what we're about. I think it's sending a message not only to the guys across the locker room here, but all of baseball." -- Harvey
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Harper began his career 0-for-21 off Harvey. He has since gone 5-for-11, including three hits Sunday.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Mets nearly committed a critical gaffe in the bottom of the 10th, when Gonzalez made a diving stop of a Harper ground ball, climbing to his feet and flipping it to Lugo. But as he moved to cover first base, Lugo dropped the ball, diving to grab it with his throwing hand as he kept his foot on the base. The Nationals challenged, unsuccessfully.
Not quite his usual dominant self in his first two starts of the season, Noah Syndergaard nonetheless went undefeated against the Cardinals and Phillies. He'll look to stay that way on Monday vs. the Marlins in his first road outing. Syndergaard owns a 1.64 ERA against the Fish and has not lost to them in five starts. First pitch at Marlins Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.