WASHINGTON (AP) — Jonathon Niese pitched seven solid innings, striking out a career-high eight for his fifth straight win, and the New York Mets held off the Washington Nationals 5-3 on Friday night.
Washington rallied for two runs in the ninth before Roger Bernadina, in a colossal baserunning blunder, was picked off second base by Francisco Rodriguez for the final out.
Niese (6-2) allowed six hits as he improved to 5-0 with a 2.43 ERA in six starts since coming off the disabled list June 5. He fanned eight in his first four innings — striking out the side in the fourth — and didn't walk a batter. To top it off, Niese added his first career RBI on a double in a four-run fourth.
David Wright, who batted .404 in June, had three hits and Alex Cora a three-run triple for the Mets, who started the evening two games behind NL East-leading Atlanta.
Josh Willingham homered off Niese in the seventh for Washington's first run. The Nationals scored twice off Elmer Dessens in the ninth on RBI singles by Bernadina and Ian Desmond.
The Mets chased Luis Atilano (6-5) in the fourth.
In the first, Ruben Tejada was hit by a pitch, moved to third on Wright's single up the middle and scored on Ike Davis' infield out.
Atilano loaded the bases in the fourth on Wright's double and two walks. He got Rod Barajas on a short fly to center and Jeff Francoeur on a liner to shortstop before Cora tripled off the right-field wall to clear the bases. Cora scored on Niese's double — his first major league RBI.
Bobby Parnell worked a scoreless eighth. Pedro Feliciano struck out the only batter he faced in the ninth and Dessens got one out before Rodriguez picked off Bernadina, with a slick tag by Tejada, for his 19th save.
While the Mets are 25-12 since May 22, the Nationals reached the halfway point heading south. They're 35-46, which projects to 92 losses — far better than the two straight 100-plus loss seasons they've endured, but they're 15-31 since May 15.
Atilano allowed all five New York runs and five hits in 3 2-3 innings.
NOTES: Mets SS Jose Reyes missed his third consecutive game with a stiff back, and will be out until at least Sunday. "I have to take care of this and see what happens in the next couple of days," Reyes said. ... New York 2B Luis Castillo (bruised right heel), who's missed a month, will soon play a rehab game. "I think Luis is to start playing sometime next week," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. ... New York signed ex-Nationals RHP Brian Bruney to a minor league contract. ... Desmond committed his major league-leading 20th error at shortstop. ... Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said there are no definite plans for RHP Chien-Ming Wang to pitch in a game. Wang, who has missed nearly a year after shoulder surgery last season, was signed as a free agent by Washington in February. "We're going without a road map," Rizzo said. ... Attorney General Eric Holder threw out the first pitch.