WASHINGTON -- By the time manager Mickey Callaway decided to pinch-hit for his starting pitcher, Steven Matz, in the sixth inning of the Mets' 3-2 win over the Nationals on Saturday at Nationals Park, he was forecasting potential matchups in the eighth and the ninth. Already, Callaway was considering using
WASHINGTON -- By the time manager Mickey Callaway decided to pinch-hit for his starting pitcher, Steven Matz, in the sixth inning of the Mets' 3-2 win over the Nationals on Saturday at Nationals Park, he was forecasting potential matchups in the eighth and the ninth. Already, Callaway was considering using closer Jeurys Familia for more than three outs, knowing once the Mets navigated past Bryce Harper, the Nationals -- sans injured tormentor Daniel Murphy -- skewed heavily right-handed.
Quickly, the stage set itself; in another example of the Mets' recent pluckiness, they rebounded from a one-run deficit in the sixth inning to gain a one-run advantage in the seventh. Callaway turned to AJ Ramos in that spot to retire pinch-hitter Adam Eaton and leadoff man Trea Turner, two of Washington's premier havoc wreakers. Then he played the matchup game in the eighth, using Jacob Rhame and Jerry Blevins for one batter apiece, before turning finally to Familia for five outs.
None of this is revolutionary. None of this breaks new ground in bullpen theory. But when Familia nailed down five outs in a row for his fourth save in seven games, running New York's record to a National League-best 6-1, it served to underscore how efficiently the Mets have become in deploying their personnel.
"Everybody is happy the way he uses the bullpen," Familia said of Callaway. "You can see the difference. He knows what he's doing over there. And it's working."
Through seven games, the Mets' bullpen -- MLB's 29th-ranked unit last year -- has been potent. Mets relievers allowed one run in the final four innings Saturday, bringing their season total up to just four in seven games. Their 1.32 ERA stands second in the Majors behind the Cubs' 0.84 mark entering Saturday, thanks in large part to Familia, who is unscored upon in five outings.
That includes a pair of multi-inning saves against the Nationals and Cardinals, two teams the Mets will have to beat if they want to replicate past glories. Familia walked a tightrope in the eighth and ninth innings Saturday because the Mets never broke through against Nationals starter Giovany Gonzalez, scoring their only run on a Travis d'Arnaud RBI single. That tied things after Washington jumped out to a lead on Pedro Severino's run-scoring hit, but Harper's sixth-inning solo homer against Hansel Robles again gave the Nats the lead.
Callaway's group finally turned things in its favor for good in the seventh off reliever Brandon Kintzler, as Asdrubal Cabrera doubled home Amed Rosario with the game-tying run and Todd Frazier knocked in Cabrera on a groundout.
Throughout the game, the Mets utilized aggressive baserunning, as they have all season under Callaway, who has also mixed his lineups with strong results. Facing Gonzalez, a left-hander, Callaway gave Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares more prominent roles than usual, watching that strategy pay dividends when Lagares threw out Brian Goodwin at the plate in the second.
• Lagares' laser cuts down Goodwin at home
"We've been doing well -- we've been doing really well," Frazier said. "We always talk about, 'Oh, it's early,' or, 'We need these games late.' We need every game. That's a blunt way of putting it. I don't care if it's early, middle of the season or late. Every win counts. We grinded it out today. We came back every time they put up a run, and it was exciting to watch."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Fast and furious: The Mets' aggressive style of baserunning was apparent during their go-ahead rally in the seventh. After Rosario led off with a single, he raced from first to home in 10.54 seconds on Cabrera's double. Cabrera then took third base on a groundout to the left side of the infield, setting himself up to score on Frazier's groundout. And that only happened because Michael Conforto was running on the 0-2 pitch, preventing Howie Kendrick from completing what, under normal circumstances, could have been an inning-ending double play.
"We're not the fastest team," Frazier said, "but once we get going, we'll find a way to get home."
Harper breaks out: The Mets did a good job of keeping Harper from beating them through the first game and a half of this series, until the sixth inning Saturday. Harper launched a solo home run into the visitors bullpen off Robles to put Washington ahead, 2-1. It was Harper's Major League-leading fifth home run. Prior to that at-bat, he had been 0-for-5 with three strikeouts against the Mets.
"Highway robbery." -- Lagares, on what Rosario said to him after he threw Goodwin out at home plate in the second
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Mets are 6-1 for just the second time in the last three decades. They began the 2006 season 8-1.
MARTINEZ, RENDON EJECTED
Home-plate umpire Marty Foster ejected Anthony Rendon after the Nationals' third baseman took a called third strike for the second consecutive at-bat, even though Rendon did not appear to say a word to Foster. The umpire then ejected Washington manager Dave Martinez, who tossed his hat to the ground and kicked the dirt around home plate before returning to the dugout. Statcast™ data showed that both called third strikes to Rendon were off the plate.
"It's pretty frustrating to say the least," Rendon said, "especially when you're taking at-bats away from guys."
Mets: Fresh off five shutout innings in his season debut, Matt Harvey will face the scrutiny of a national television audience on Sunday Night Baseball at 8:08 ET at Nationals Park. It won't be an easy assignment; Harvey is 0-3 with a 7.25 ERA in five games against the Nats the past two seasons.
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Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.