WASHINGTON — With a lineup that was already sputtering, it was no surprise the New York Mets failed to bust out against Nationals ace Max Scherzer.
Daniel Murphy homered twice, tormenting his former team yet again, and Washington completed a three-game sweep of the Mets with 4-2 victory Wednesday night.
New York’s offense did little against Scherzer (9-5), who allowed two hits with 10 strikeouts over 7 1/3 shutout innings.
“We’re just not even giving ourselves chances,” said Mets manager Terry Collins, who earlier in the day called it a game his team needed to win.
After taking an early lead in Monday’s series opener, New York went 23 innings without scoring before James Loney’s two-run homer in the ninth off Shawn Kelley.
The Mets have lost four straight and fallen six games behind first-place Washington in the NL East. Awaiting them is a four-game series against the major league-best Chicago Cubs to begin an 11-game homestand.
“Obviously, you wanted to come in here and have different results,” outfielder Curtis Granderson said. “You’ve still got a lot of games to play plus a lot of games against this team and everybody else in our division.”
Scherzer retired 18 in a row before Brandon Nimmo’s single in the eighth and finished with at least 10 strikeouts for the fourth straight outing.
Murphy homered off Logan Verrett (3-5) in the second for a 1-0 lead and golfed a two-run drive in the eighth against reliever Sean Gilmartin. The second baseman matched his career high with 14 homers as Washington won its fourth in a row.
“He’s doing the damage against everybody,” Collins said. “We’ve just got to make better pitches. You can’t miss on the inner half of the plate to Dan Murphy right now. Logan hung a slider and Gilly got a changeup down and in.”
Murphy is batting .428 (15 for 35) with four home runs and 11 RBIs against New York. He signed a $37.5 million, three-year contract with Washington last offseason after spending his first seven seasons with the Mets and powering them into the World Series last year with a record-setting postseason.
“It’s just obvious he wants to beat them up,” Scherzer said.
Kelley got four outs for his fourth save. He threw a called third strike past Nimmo with a runner on second to end it.
Scherzer walked Kelly Johnson in the second, the same inning in which Asdrubal Cabrera registered New York’s first hit. The Mets didn’t reach base again until Nimmo’s hit on the final pitch from Scherzer, who left to a standing ovation.
Granderson entered as a pinch hitter and singled off reliever Oliver Perez, giving New York two baserunners.
Kelley, Washington’s fourth pitcher of the inning, whiffed Alejandro De Aza with the potential tying runs in scoring position to end the eighth.
Making a spot start because Steven Matz was pushed back a day, Verrett lost his fifth straight decision. He allowed two runs and four hits with four walks over five innings.
“I felt like I kept us in the game, gave us a chance to come back and win it,” Verrett said.
Yoenis Cespedes struck out three times against Scherzer.
THE GRANDY MAN CAN
Granderson was a late scratch from the starting lineup one day after being removed from Tuesday’s game with right calf tightness. He said after the game he’s day to day.
Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard, who struggled in Monday’s series opener, confirmed he has a bone spur in his elbow. He called it “pretty insignificant.”
Mets: Matz (7-3, 3.29 ERA) faces Chicago Cubs RHP John Lackey (7-4, 3.29) on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series at Citi Field, a rematch of last year’s NL Championship Series that the Mets won in a four-game sweep.
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