Cespedes' big day not enough vs. Nats

Cespedes' big day not enough vs. Nats

NEW YORK -- The Nationals tightened their hammerlock on the National League East with a 7-4 triumph over the Mets on Saturday, remaining unbeaten at Citi Field this season and clinching another series victory there.

Trea Turner hit a leadoff home run off Mets righty Seth Lugo, Jose Lobaton added a solo shot, and Stephen Strasburg delivered 5 1/3 effective innings, holding the Mets to two runs. Initially viewing this series as a chance to climb back into contention, New York has not led at any point over its first three games.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for your favorite #ASGWorthy players

"I was kind of scuffling out there today," Strasburg said. "Just kept trying to make pitches, and sometimes it would show up, sometimes it wouldn't. But you're gonna have games like this. You just gotta keep it close, and the offense and the bullpen picked me up today."

Strasburg's strong outing

Though the Mets created plenty of opportunities, three double plays on offense and multiple defensive misplays undermined them throughout the afternoon. The Nationals took advantage, successfully leaning on their much-maligned bullpen for the game's final 11 outs. Adam Lind gave them some additional cushion with a two-run homer in the eighth.

Lind's two-run homer

Bright spots for the Mets included Yoenis Cespedes' home run and 4-for-5 performance, and Jay Bruce's three-hit day. But the Mets could not sustain any of their rallies, leaving six men on base from the fourth through eighth innings.

Cespedes' solo home run

"It is frustrating," Bruce said. "They're obviously the team right in front of us, and we have a lot of work to do. We have an uphill climb. We had a chance to chip into that a bit, and we haven't. But you can't go back. You can't think about what could have been."

Previously hot Mets have been humbled by Nats

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Leading off with a bang: Turner turned on Lugo's second pitch of the game, a 91-mph fastball that he redirected into the left-center-field seats. Scoring early hasn't been a problem this series for the Nationals, who have led in all but two innings of the first three games. It was the third leadoff home run Mets starters have allowed over the past five games.

Turner's leadoff home run

"I felt like a couple pitches just got away from me," Lugo said. "Everything else was in a good location with good movement. ... For me, I'm just trying to keep the score where we have a chance to come back. The last few innings we had a chance, so that's all I can do."

Lugo K's Turner

Treinen escapes: Chipping the Nationals' lead to two runs in the sixth inning, the Mets chased Strasburg from the game and threatened to tie things when they put two men on base with one out. But Blake Treinen entered, coaxing an inning-ending double-play ball from T.J. Rivera.

Nationals turn clutch DP

Continuing the theme of Nationals relievers escaping, Matt Grace jammed Michael Conforto in a popout the next inning with the score at 4-2 to strand Jose Reyes at third base, and Enny Romero struck out Rene Rivera with the tying runs aboard and two outs in the eighth.

Romero escapes jam

"Our bullpen did a great job because they got 11 outs," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "That's a lot of outs for your bullpen. [We] wanted [Strasburg] to get the victory."

QUOTABLE
"The way he played today, that woke some guys up, because you know he's close to being in that lineup every day. When he plays like that, we're going to be dangerous."
-- Mets manager Terry Collins, on Cespedes

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy finished 2-for-4 with one RBI, extending his streak of reaching base against his old club to 28 straight games. Murphy is a career .396 hitter with nine doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 29 RBIs against the Mets.

Murphy's RBI double

WHAT'S NEXT
Nationals: Washington will start right-hander Joe Ross in the finale of the four-game series Sunday. First pitch is at 1:10 p.m. ET, however, and Ross has a 13.09 ERA in three daytime starts this season.

Mets: The Mets hope to salvage a game in Sunday's series finale behind Jacob deGrom, who pitched their only complete game of the season in his last start against the Cubs. The Mets will play without Cespedes, who is scheduled for a day of rest.

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

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Chris Bumbaca is a reporter for MLB.com based out of New York and covered the Nationals on Saturday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.