WASHINGTON -- As the Mets have endured a number of injuries during the past few weeks, Michael Conforto has benefited with increased playing time, especially in left field while Yoenis Cespedes is on the disabled list.
Conforto hammered a pair of homers Saturday afternoon for his first career multihomer game to lift the Mets to a 5-3 victory over the Nationals at Nationals Park. Conforto struck first in the fifth inning off Stephen Strasburg to put the Mets ahead, 3-1, and then provided insurance with a solo homer in the eighth off left-hander Enny Romero.
"It's huge, but you know, we had a feeling this was coming," Conforto said. "We have a lot of faith in ourselves. Things were going bad for a bit, but there's no panic in here."
One week after Washington swept New York at Citi Field, the Mets are now in position to do the same if they can win Sunday. The Mets came into the series having lost 10 of their past 11 games, but they have now beaten Max Scherzer and Strasburg on consecutive days.
"Before the series started, they were reeling, but at the same time, a good-pitched game can stop your reeling," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "And they're pulling out all the stops. They're using [Addison] Reed four days in a row, and using [Jeurys] Familia three days in a row. … The last couple days, even though we've had those guys on the mound, they've hit the ball out of the ballpark. That's what they're known for."
Conforto aided an uneven outing from right-hander Zack Wheeler, who labored through 4 2/3 innings. Wheeler consistently pitched himself into trouble with five hits and four walks, but he also kept the Mets in the game by only surrendering two runs (one earned).
• Zimmerman launches 470-foot homer
In his first start following the birth of his second child earlier this week, Strasburg turned in another strong outing, giving up three runs on six hits in seven innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in each of his first five starts this season, matching a career long from 2013. Ryan Zimmerman continued his hot start by driving in three runs on the day, including a solo homer in the eighth inning that traveled 470 feet as estimated by Statcast™, tied for the longest in the Majors this season.
Jose Reyes added a solo homer in the ninth, and the Mets' bullpen made the lead hold.
"When we started playing well last year, it wasn't one guy," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "That's how you're going to win. You can't just turn to one guy all the time. Today, Michael had a huge day for us, and certainly we really needed it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Keeping Harper in check: Even when they worked their way into trouble, the Mets were able to escape in large part due to their mastery of Bryce Harper. He batted four times on the day with runners in scoring position and the Mets struck him out three times, also forcing him into a double play in the fifth inning.
Trea Turner began the fifth by reaching on an error and Michael Taylor singled, but Wheeler forced Harper to hit a grounder back to the mound and start a 1-2-3 double play to quell the rally.
"With Bryce, you have to mix it in and out, up and down, change speeds," Wheeler said. "You can't make a mistake to him or he'll make you pay."
Familia secures first save: Prior to the game, Mets general manager Sandy Anderson said his team's bullpen needs to settle, and they made a lead hold up Saturday afternoon. Working for a third consecutive game and a night after he was pulled from a save situation in the ninth inning, Jeurys Familia turned in a 1-2-3 ninth inning to seal the Mets' victory and secure his first save of the year.
"Today, I felt the same as yesterday," Familia said. "Just today, I was able to throw my breaking balls for strikes. My sinker, it was the same." More >
"The feeling is great, because they've got a great club and they're red-hot. You face arguably two of the best pitchers in the game, two days in a row and come out with two wins? That's huge for us." -- Collins, on the Nationals
Some confusion on the bases led to a potential rally-killer for the Nats in the fourth inning. Jayson Werth drew a leadoff walk, and he slid in safely to steal second base as the ball got away from shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. As Werth broke for third, he collided with Cabrera and did not see that second baseman Neil Walker had retrieved the ball and threw him out easily at third. But second-base umpire Angel Hernandez appeared to signal an obstruction call, which Werth said he heard Hernandez say he did. Baker came out to argue, but Werth was ruled out.
"When I got tackled out there, I was obstructed on seeing he had the ball," Werth said. "But you're taught, all growing up, playing at this level as long as I have, you're taught that if you run into obstruction, you're taught to just continue on. If I wasn't obstructed, I would have seen that Walker got the ball and there was nowhere to go. So I was just kind of doing what I was taught."
"I saw [Hernandez] point obstruction," Baker said. "And then he gave some jive explanation that really didn't make sense to me."
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud's upper back began tightening up after he slid into second base in the fifth inning. Though d'Arnaud stayed in the game for three more innings, the Mets eventually removed him in the ninth. He was scheduled to be off anyway on Sunday and expects to return to the Mets' lineup Monday in Atlanta.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Though Wheeler didn't slide, he managed to avoid shortstop Turner's tag on the back end of a would-be double play in the third. Baker unsuccessfully challenged, falling to 0-2 on replay reviews this series.
Mets: Three days after he was originally scheduled to pitch, Noah Syndergaard will return to the mound for the Mets' 1:35 p.m. ET series finale at Nationals Park on Sunday. The Mets pushed Syndergaard's previous start back when he reported discomfort in his right biceps, but a successful bullpen session pushed most of the team's worries aside.
Nationals:Joe Ross will take the mound for his third start of the season in the series finale against the Mets. As encouraging as Ross' first outing was, his last start was just as troubling. His velocity dipped as he got shelled for seven hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings, although that took place at hitter-friendly Coors Field .
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.