NEW YORK — Wilmer Flores hit a go-ahead, three-run homer and the New York Mets rallied past the Washington Nationals 9-7 on Thursday night in the opener of a pivotal four-game series between the top teams in the NL East.
Travis d’Arnaud, Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera also went deep for New York in a slugfest that featured eight home runs — most in the eight-year history of Citi Field. The second-place Mets improved to 7-1 on their 11-game homestand leading into the All-Star break and shaved Washington’s division lead to three games — two in the loss column.
The victory provided an emotional pick-me-up for the Mets, who announced sobering news before the game: Struggling pitcher Matt Harvey has symptoms consistent with thoracic outlet syndrome and might require season-ending surgery to treat a serious condition that has jeopardized the careers of other major league pitchers.
Daniel Murphy homered and drove in three runs, his latest big performance against the Mets since the defending NL champions let him leave as a free agent in the offseason. Bryce Harper, Clint Robinson and Anthony Rendon hit a solo shots off 43-year-old Bartolo Colon in the fourth inning to give the Nationals a 4-1 lead.
That put prized prospect Lucas Giolito in a good position to earn his first major league win, but the 21-year-old right-hander tired quickly and never made it through the fourth. He threw 90 pitches and gave up four runs, seven hits and four walks over 3 2/3 innings in his second major league start — both against the Mets.
Washington’s attempt to rally in the ninth was thwarted when Jayson Werth was called for an illegal takeout slide at second base, giving the Mets a double play after Cabrera made a diving stop at shortstop of Murphy’s sharp grounder.
All-Star closer Jeurys Familia then struck out Harper for his major league-best 31st save. Familia has converted a club-record 47 consecutive regular-season save opportunities since August, though he did blow a four-run lead this year.
With the Mets trailing 6-4 in the fifth, Cabrera and Brandon Nimmo singled. Flores, who had just come off the bench in a double switch to play first base, drove the first pitch he saw from Oliver Perez (2-2) just over the facing of the second deck in left field.
Scores of fans jumped out of their seats, seemingly in unison, when Flores connected and the fan favorite popped out of the dugout and pumped his left fist with a curtain call to acknowledge the crowd of 37,569.
On a tear at the plate all week, Flores homered twice Wednesday against Miami and went 6 for 6 with two homers Sunday against the Chicago Cubs.
Hansel Robles (3-3) retired Rendon with the bases loaded to end the fifth and worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Addison Reed struck out two in 1 1/3 hitless innings as New York’s bullpen came through all night.
Washington swept three games from the Mets at home last week to open a six-game lead.
Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman, who homered Wednesday against Milwaukee, sat out because of general soreness. It was simply a precaution and he is day to day, manager Dusty Baker said. Robinson started at first base.
Mets: Cabrera was back at shortstop after getting scratched just before the first pitch Wednesday because a family illness had kept him up all night. … General manager Sandy Alderson said a decision on potential surgery for Harvey is expected in the next few days. “Wow. I hate to hear that. Especially a guy of his quality. Any young player and young pitcher,” Baker said. “Wishing the best. He’s on the opposition but we don’t wish that on anybody. Boy, I just hope they get it right. Last time we came here, we heard all the boos that he was getting and stuff, so evidently, something might have been wrong with him throughout the course of the year.”
Washington RHP Stephen Strasburg (11-0, 2.71 ERA) faces RHP Noah Syndergaard (9-3, 2.41) for the first time Friday night in a marquee matchup of ace pitchers heading to the All-Star Game next week in San Diego. Strasburg was pulled with a no-hitter intact after 6 2/3 innings Sunday against Cincinnati because he had already thrown 109 pitches in his first start since an upper back strain landed him on the DL.
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