WASHINGTON — After a breakout afternoon fueled by Francisco Lindor, the Mets returned to the fetal position Saturday night.
For a third time in four games their bats went quiet, in a 6-2 loss to the Nationals in the nightcap of a doubleheader. Lindor drove in all of the Mets’ runs in a 5-1 victory in Game 1.
Robert Gsellman, pitching for the first time in 11 days, received the start in the nightcap and allowed a leadoff homer to Kyle Schwarber. The right-hander was removed after two innings, and then it got messy. Sean Reid-Foley, who has been an asset in long relief, surrendered five earned runs on five hits over 1 ²/₃ innings to bury the Mets in a 6-0 hole. Schwarber delivered the knockout punch with his second homer of the game, a three-run blast in the fourth.
Jose Peraza delivered a two-run homer against Jon Lester in the seventh that prevented the Mets from getting shut out for a third time in four games.
The loss came after the Mets placed left-hander Joey Lucchesi on the 10-day injured list with elbow inflammation, eliciting further concern for a rotation already in need of reinforcements.
In Game 1, Lindor quickly ended a Mets scoring drought with a home run, then continued his rampage throughout the afternoon.
In the kind of carry-the-team performance that was envisioned when the All-Star shortstop was acquired from Cleveland and then signed his $341 million contract extension, Lindor smashed two homers and drove in all five of the Mets’ runs.
Lindor hit a two-run homer in the first inning that ended a 21-inning Mets scoring drought. He also crushed a two-run blast in the fifth, giving him the first multi-homer game of his Mets career.
But Lindor said such a performance was never something he considered.
“I’m not a power hitter,” said Lindor, who ended an 0-for-11 skid with the first homer. “I’m gap-to-gap and if the ball goes out, it goes out. It’s not like I’m thinking about, I’m going to have two home runs in a game or three home runs. As long as we come up with the ‘W’ — that is what I have been dreaming about, coming up with wins and winning a World Series championship.”
In between homers, Lindor delivered an RBI single in the third, helping the Mets end a two-game skid in which they had combined for four hits.
“I know for his confidence and the player he is, this is another boost,” manager Luis Rojas said. “It’s consistent day to day, his confidence, he trusts his abilities. You get a day like this and you go, ‘OK, here we go, this is it.’ Let’s see how it keeps translating game to game.”
David Peterson gave the Mets a second straight solid start, allowing one earned run on two hits and three walks over 4 ²/₃ innings. It followed the left-hander’s best career performance, a six-inning shutout against the Cubs last Monday.
But the Mets also needed a big bullpen effort to escape this one with the victory. Aaron Loup, Miguel Castro and Seth Lugo got the Mets through 1 ¹/₃ innings before Trevor May pitched a scoreless seventh. Lugo entered with two runners on base in the sixth and retired Schwarber to escape and keep the Mets’ lead at 5-1.
May was tested in the seventh, allowing a leadoff single to Trea Turner before Juan Soto walked. Josh Bell hit into a double play and Josh Harrison struck out.
“The main thing is winning this game,” Rojas said between games, when asked about using four relievers and still having the nightcap of the doubleheader ahead. “You have got to win the game. You have got to stop momentum.”
Peterson didn’t allow a run until the fifth, when Turner doubled and scored on a single by Soto off Loup. In the top of the fifth, Peterson doubled for his first major league hit and he was on base when Lindor’s blast cleared the right-field fence.
“It’s been coming,” Peterson said, referring to his first hit. “I have been wanting to get the first one and I feel like a total baseball player.”