Last night probably felt like a game that the New York Mets had to have. Instead, the struggling club lost their season-high fifth straight game.
After losing in disappointing fashion, the Mets look to rebound this evening in the continuation of a three-game series against the first-place Washington Nationals.
New York lost its final game before the All-Star break to begin its current slide, which continued with a three-game sweep at the hands of the hosting Atlanta Braves last weekend.
Following a needed off day, the Mets looked to have their skid snapped when Jordany Valdespin hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the top of the ninth inning, but Bobby Parnell gave up a run-scoring single to Danny Espinosa in the bottom of the frame.
New York fought back to take the lead in the top of the 10th frame on a Josh Thole RBI double, but Nats rookie Bryce Harper again tied the game with an RBI triple.
Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond were both intentionally walked to load the bases, and after Harper was out on a fielder's choice off the bat of Adam LaRoche, Mets reliever Pedro Beato uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Zimmerman to score the winning run in a 5-4 decision.
The loss has New York on its longest skid since it dropped six in a row from Sept. 10-15 and the club has lost eight of its past 11 to fall seven games behind Washington in the standings.
"We got to start winning again," Thole said. "It's tough this is a bit of a skid but that's how it goes in this game."
The Nats, coming off a four-game split with the Miami Marlins, stretched their edge over the second-place Braves to 3 1/2 games.
"There's no give up," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "Probably not as flashy as a lot of players, but they're everyday ballplayers."
Johnson now has the luxury of handing the ball to starter Jordan Zimmermann, who has thrown at least six innings in all 18 of his starts this year to produce a 6-6 record and 2.48 earned run average.
The tough-luck Zimmermann has used a three-decision win streak -- spanning four starts -- to get to .500 and followed up three straight one-run outings with a victory at Miami on Friday in which the righty hurled six scoreless frames of four-hit ball. He walked one and fanned six in a 5-1 win.
Zimmermann, 26, did not factor into a 7-6 win over the visiting Mets on June 5 after allowing two runs over six innings. He is 2-2 lifetime against New York with a 3.56 ERA in eight starts.
The Nats face a tall order in the 6-foot-10 Chris Young, but the Mets right- hander will be looking to avoid a third straight loss.
Young dropped a decision to the Phillies on July 4, giving up three runs over seven innings before opening the second half at Atlanta on Friday. The 33- year-old struggled, only lasting three innings while getting charged with five runs on six hits and three walks.
Young now sits at 2-3 with a 4.28 ERA in seven starts this season and faces Zimmermann for the second time. Young also did not factor into the June 5 decision, giving up two earned runs over five frames.
The Princeton product is 3-1 with a 2.74 ERA in seven lifetime meetings with the Nationals franchise, but hasn't beaten them since Sept. 20, 2008 while with the Padres.
The Nationals have won nine of their last 11 against the Mets, including five of seven so far this season.