WASHINGTON -- Each time the Mets have had a glimmer of hope of saving their season, a chance to climb back into the race in the National League East, the Nationals have shut the door. New York entered Monday night's game on a roll, winners of seven of its past nine games. Meanwhile, Washington's lead in the NL East had dwindled to 7 1/2 games over the second-place Braves, the smallest it had been since May 26.
And yet, after a pitchers' duel turned into a battle of the bullpens, the Nationals prevailed again Monday night at Nationals Park for a 3-2 walk-off victory. A bloop single from Ryan Raburn fell in front of left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who sustained a hamstring cramp on the play, in the ninth inning to lead Washington to a win it nearly gave away in the top of the inning.
"I was hollering at [the ball to drop]," Raburn said, after delivering Washington's sixth walk-off win of the season. "In my mind I was yelling at that thing. Fortunately, it was able to come down and give us a win."
Stephen Strasburg and Steven Matz traded zeroes for seven innings before handing the game over to the bullpens. The Nationals and Mets began the game with the two worst bullpens ERAs in the NL and traded a pair of two-run homers. First, Michael Taylor slammed one against left-hander Jerry Blevins in the eighth inning to give the Nats a 2-0 lead. Then, Curtis Granderson countered in the ninth against Matt Albers to tie the game.
"That's what makes it interesting and why a lot of people want to watch this series," Granderson said. "A lot of things can, and probably will, happen."
It soured the mood at Nationals Park in front of a sellout crowd of 41,681 fans. But once again, the Nationals rallied to snatch away a victory from the Mets -- as Washington has in eight of the 11 meetings between the two teams this season -- and spoil New York's chances at gaining ground.
"We were just fighting all the way," Taylor said. "I don't think it took the air out of us. We came back the next inning. Guys put together good at-bats and still fight to win the game.
"We are resilient and think we believed the whole time that we had the game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Granderson returns: Granderson had been nursing a sore hip that kept him out of the lineup before he made his pinch-hit appearance as the Mets' last hope in the ninth. He fell behind 0-2 to Albers before launching a fastball that caught too much of the plate for a game-tying, two-run homer. The homer came off Granderson's bat at 41 degrees and 103.6 mph, a combination that yields a homer less than three out of 10 times and has a hit probability of 27 percent. As the ball landed over the fence in right field, Bryce Harper hung his head at the wall as the Nationals blew their 14th save of the year.
• Granderson skies it to tie it
"I was just watching Harper run the whole time," Granderson said. "He went back to it. He stopped. I was like, 'OK, I didn't get enough.' And then he looked up. I was just hopeful that it would get up, because I was unsure what I would be able to do after that in terms of trying to go extra bases. The fact that it went just enough was a good thing."
Goodwin throws out Nimmo: The Mets pieced together a rally in the eighth inning off Nationals left-hander Matt Grace after an infield single from Brandon Nimmo, followed by a sac bunt to get him to second. Nimmo tried to score on a single into left field by Jose Reyes before he was cut down at the plate by a strong throw from Brian Goodwin.
"You want to make a play," Goodwin said. "You want to get to it fast as possible, but you have to be under control."
New York challenged that Washington catcher Matt Wieters had blocked home plate illegally and violated the collision rule, but the call on the field was confirmed. Nats right-hander Joe Blanton eventually got Cespedes to ground into a force play at second base to keep the game scoreless.
"You've got to send him," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You've got to make the guy make a good throw. And he did. He made a great throw. If that ball's one foot to either side, he's safe.'
"It's really fun. He's a great pitcher and he threw a great game today. You know you've got to keep it tight when you've got a guy like that on the mound." -- Matz, on the challenge of facing Strasburg
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy grounded out during a pinch-hit appearance in the eighth inning, snapping his streak of 29 consecutive games reaching base against the Mets.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Mets were walking off the field in the fourth inning when Nationals manager Dusty Baker challenged second-base umpire Carlos Torres' ruling that Wilmer Difo was out at second on a stolen base attempt. Following a two-minute, 28-second replay review, the umpiring crew reversed the call. But the inning ended moments later anyway on an Adrian Sanchez flyout.
Mets: Tuesday's 11:05 a.m. ET Fourth of July start time isn't the earliest in Mets history -- the team played several 10:30 a.m. games in its history at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field. But the holiday special will nonetheless be unorthodox for the Mets and starting pitcher Seth Lugo, who is 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA in four outings since coming off the disabled list.
Nationals: The Nationals are 7-4 when playing in the nation's capital on July 4, as they host the Mets on Tuesday for their annual 11:05 a.m. start at Nationals Park. Joe Ross will start this game for the first time in his career coming off back-to-back solid starts.
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