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Mets' late rally tops Nats, extends NL East lead

WASHINGTON -- The battle for the National League East title began in earnest on Monday afternoon at Nationals Park. The Mets increased the division lead to five games in an 8-5 victory over the Nats.

The game was tied at 5 when the Mets scored three runs off the Nationals' bullpen. With Casey Janssen on the mound, David Wright drove in the go-ahead run with a single to right field, scoring Ruben Tejada. Matt Thornton entered the game for Washington and allowed a sacrifice fly to Daniel Murphy to make it a two-run game. Yoenis Cespedes followed with a double, scoring Wright.

"That's what great teams do," Wright said. "We played an excellent baseball game today. Just an all-around great win."

The Mets were able to get to Max Scherzer early by taking a 3-0 lead after 3 1/2 innings. All three runs came on solo home runs by Michael Conforto, Kelly Johnson and Cespedes.

Video: [email protected]: Conforto's homer stakes Mets to early lead

But Washington put a five-spot on the board in the fourth against left-hander Jon Niese. The bases were loaded with no outs when Wilson Ramos hit a grand slam over the left-field wall to give the Nationals a 4-3 lead. Three batters later, Jayson Werth added to the lead with a double over Cespedes' head in center field, scoring Michael Taylor.

"We took the lead there and we had a chance," Nationals manager Matt Williams said.

Video: [email protected]: Werth doubles deep to center, plates Taylor

But the Mets were able to tie the game off Scherzer by the sixth inning. Curtis Granderson hit an RBI double, while Travis d'Arnaud tied the score with a sacrifice fly.

Captain clutch: Since homering on his first swing back from the disabled list, Wright has collected just one extra-base hit in 11 games. But the lack of power didn't prevent him from plating the go-ahead run Monday, singling home Tejada in the seventh. After scoring himself on the first of Cespedes' two doubles, Wright unleashed a powerful fist pump at home plate.

"It means a lot to have him back," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "His presence in the lineup, his presence in the clubhouse. That's why he is who he is, because he comes through when you need him." More >

Video: [email protected]: Wright lines a go-ahead single into left

Nats struggle to capitalize: Aside from their five-run fourth inning, the Nationals had other opportunities to score. They had a runner in scoring position in the second, third and fifth innings, but they couldn't bring a runner home. Washington ended up going 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

"[After the Ramos homer], we had some opportunities to score some runs, but the Mets have a shutdown bullpen," right fielder Bryce Harper said. "They have [Hansel] Robles and, of course, [Jeurys] Familia. When you are throwing 96-mph sinkers and 96-mph split-fingers, it's pretty tough. We just have to find a way and come back tomorrow." More >

Yoenis' wacky trip around the bases: With a little help from Scherzer, Cespedes essentially scored the game-tying run by himself. Leading off the sixth with his second double in two innings, Cespedes narrowly avoided being tagged out as he casually rounded second base and sauntered back to it. He then advanced to third on a balk, scoring on d'Arnaud's line-drive sacrifice fly. More >

Video: [email protected]: Double, balk help Cespedes tie game

Rough outing for ace: Scherzer lasted six innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and striking out six batters. It marked the third time he has allowed three homers in a game during the second half.

"I was making mistakes in the zone," Scherzer said. "I'm leaving the ball thigh-high instead of getting the ball down in the knees. That's something that has been systematic in the second half. That's something I have to get better at. I have to get the ball down in the zone, getting it back at knee level. That's what is going to keep me up late tonight. I have to figure out how to do that." More >

"[The fans] left in the seventh. That's pretty brutal, but ... I don't know. Whatever." -- Harper, on what he thought of the atmosphere at Nationals Park

Mets reliever Carlos Torres left the game in the bottom of the fifth with a strained left calf after delivering 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Niese. Torres injured his leg planting it on his final pitch of the day, which produced a Taylor dribbler to the right of the pitcher's mound. He said he tried in vain to hide his limp walking back to the mound.

Video: [email protected]: Torres makes nice play, exits with injury

"I just couldn't hide it on the way back, because I couldn't walk," Torres said. "I put the team in a little bit of a predicament."

After Cespedes hit a towering home run in the fourth inning, crew chief Dana DeMuth wanted to make sure the ball went over the wall. After 25 seconds, the play stood and Cespedes was credited with his 31st home run of the season.

Mets: Matt Harvey will pitch for the first time since becoming embroiled in an innings-limit controversy when the Mets continue their series with the Nationals in a 7:05 p.m. ET game Tuesday. Beyond that is anyone's guess. General manager Sandy Alderson said that the Mets will deploy Harvey down the stretch and in October depending upon how the team is faring.

Nationals: The Nationals play the second game of a three-game series the Mets on Tuesday night. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann has been up and down in his free-agency season, but he's been solid the last two times out. He combined for 13 innings in his previous two starts, allowing nine hits and two earned runs.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All theTime. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Wilson Ramos, Carlos Torres, Yoenis Cespedes, Jon Niese, Travis d'Arnaud, Jayson Werth, Kelly Johnson, David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson, Max Scherzer