WASHINGTON — With their season spiraling toward the abyss just over a week ago, it was fair to wonder if the Mets would see .500 again this year.
That benchmark of mediocrity likely won’t get them to the playoffs, but it’s often the first step in resembling a team with a chance. The Mets returned to .500 on Friday night, overcoming Edwin Diaz’s first implosion in six weeks to beat the Nationals 6-2 in 10 innings.
Pete Alonso’s RBI single in the 10th against Austin Voth brought in Francisco Lindor, the automatic runner at second base, with the go-ahead run. Alonso’s hit elicited a chant of “Let’s go Mets” from behind the third-base dugout at Nationals Park, where a collection of fans wearing orange and blue helped the visitors feel at home. Those cheers extended with Kevin Pillar’s two-run double that widened the Mets’ lead. Jonathan Villar delivered an RBI single that put the Mets ahead 6-2, before Jeurys Familia got three outs.
Diaz had recorded nine straight saves since blowing his last one, on July 19 in Cincinnati. He entered with a 1.13 ERA over that stretch, with 23 strikeouts in 16 innings.
Juan Soto started the comeback against Diaz in the ninth in a hurry, lofting the right-hander’s first pitch of the night into the left-field seats to pull the Nationals within 2-1.
Diaz recorded an out before walking Ryan Zimmerman on four pitches and allowing a bloop to Riley Adams that eluded Brandon Nimmo’s diving outstretched glove. The ball rolled behind Nimmo and was retrieved by Michael Conforto. Javier Baez’s relay throw to the plate resulted in a collision between pinch-runner Andrew Stevenson and catcher Chance Sisco, with the runner safe. Sisco was knocked out of the game and replaced by Patrick Mazeika. Following the delay, Diaz recovered to get the final two outs and send the game to extra innings.
Facing the NL East dregs, the Mets won their sixth straight (including a suspended game against Miami that is officially recorded as an April victory). The potential feast will continue with four additional games against these stripped-down Nationals to conclude the Labor Day weekend. That schedule includes a Saturday split doubleheader at Nationals Park — one game is a makeup from the opening series of the season that was postponed following a COVID-19 outbreak among the Nationals.
The Mets, who began the night trailing the Braves by five games in the NL East, fell to .500 with a loss in San Francisco on Aug. 16 and had remained below that level since the following day. They were six games below .500 after a loss to the Nationals that began their last homestand, but have run the table since then.
Rich Hill, in his best start since arriving to the Mets a week before the trade deadline, pitched six shutout innings in which he allowed three hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Seth Lugo and Arron Loup fired a scoreless inning apiece before the Nationals rallied against Diaz in the ninth.
Conforto’s RBI single in the second gave the Mets a 1-0 lead. Baez doubled with one out before Conforto hit a line drive off pitcher Sean Nolin’s shoulder that caromed to the outfield for a 1-0 lead. Pillar’s ensuing double put runners on second and third, but Nolin struck out before Hill was retired.
Alonso delivered a two-out RBI triple in the third that extended the Mets’ lead to 2-0. Nimmo walked and after Lindor was retired, Alonso hit a bloop to right that Soto overran. As Soto pursued the ball, Alonso legged it to third base for his second triple of the season.
Hill was tested in the fifth, following Luis Garcia’s two-out double that put runners on second and third. But pinch-hitter Keibert Ruiz popped out to keep the Mets’ lead at two runs.
Garcia had doubled leading off the third, but was picked off second by Hill, who stepped off the rubber and got the runner caught in a rundown.