WASHINGTON (AP) — As he slogged through a season at Triple-A Syracuse that didn’t appear to be leading anywhere, Tommy Milone started rediscovering the control that made him a reliable starter in the majors.
Now, the 31-year-old left-hander is pitching meaningful games for a team trying to get back into playoff contention, and he’s making the most of the opportunity.
Milone worked seven strong innings to get his first win in more than a year, Anthony Rendon homered and the Washington Nationals moved back above .500 with a 5-3 victory over the New York Mets on Wednesday.
“I spent probably the last couple of years trying to get back to my old self, and kind of midway through the Triple-A season I felt like I had found it,” said Milone (1-0). “So I’m just trying to roll with it.”
The Nationals followed their 25-4 blowout of the Mets on Tuesday night by jumping on Noah Syndergaard early. Bryce Harper hit an RBI single in the first and Rendon hit his 16th homer in the third.
“We got a strong start out of Milone right there and to be able get him some runs on the board was huge,” Harper said. “Syndergaard’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.”
Rendon has six RBIs in two games since returning to the team after the birth of his first child.
Jose Reyes homered from both sides of the plate for the Mets, his 11th career multihomer game. On Tuesday night, the longtime infielder made the first pitching appearance of his career and gave up two homers and six runs in the eighth inning.
Washington completed a two-game sweep of its depleted NL East rival, moved within five games of first-place Philadelphia and thus far has validated general manager Mike Rizzo’s decision to mostly stand pat at the non-waiver trade deadline. Rizzo and the Nationals’ ownership are banking on the team getting healthy, breaking out of its season-long funk and challenging for a third straight NL East title.
“This is a pivotal time of year, you know? But the last two days, you see what they have done,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Going forward, we have a chance to do something special.”
Filling in for the injured Stephen Strasburg, Milone mixed his pitches effectively and faced little stress in the second start of his second stint with Washington. He made his major league debut for the Nationals in 2011 and has played for five teams since, including the Mets last season.
Milone allowed Reyes’ homer in the fifth and two singles. He struck out nine and walked none in his first win since April 14, 2017, with Milwaukee.
After missing his previous scheduled start because of hand, foot and mouth disease, Syndergaard (6-2) worked seven innings, allowing three runs. He also missed time earlier this season with a strained right index finger.
“Considering where I was two months ago and where I’m at now, I kind of went through a roller coaster of emotions and events,” he said. “It’s going to take a while to knock a little bit of rust off.”
Batting lefty against Ryan Madson in the eighth, Reyes hit his ninth homer this season to get the Mets within 3-2.
Wilmer Flores homered in the ninth off Kelvin Herrera when his deep fly ball bounced out of the glove of left fielder Juan Soto and over the bullpen wall. Herrera induced a game-ending double play to earn his second save for Washington and 16th in 18 opportunities overall.
Reyes’ ragged inning of mop-up a day earlier led to an odd achievement: He became the first player in major league history to allow two homers in one game and then hit two homers in his team’s next game.
Reyes wasn’t even in the Mets’ lineup Wednesday, but entered after 2B Phillip Evans was injured in the first.
“Everything happened so fast,” Reyes said, adding that he received countless text messages about his work on the mound: “Oh my God. You don’t even know.”
Mets: LHP Steven Matz will be evaluated for forearm discomfort after he allowed seven runs and recorded just two outs Tuesday night. He struggled with an elbow injury through much of 2017 before having season-ending surgery in August. … Evans experienced discomfort in his left knee after he collided with a sliding Adam Eaton in the first inning and was pulled. Manager Mickey Callaway challenged the play, arguing that Eaton should have been called out for an illegal slide. “I thought that rule was in place to keep that from happening. I thought that was a little bit of a slide that he kind of came off the bag. That’s why we challenged it and our player ends up getting hurt,” Callaway said. … Mets OF Yoenis Cespedes is scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday to remove bone calcification in his right heel.
Mets: LHP Jason Vargas (2-6, 8.36 ERA), winless in four starts since beating Atlanta on May 30, faces the Braves again as a four-game series begins in New York. All-Star RHP Mike Foltynewicz (7-7, 3.04) starts for Atlanta.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (14-5, 2.30), who has won four straight starts, opens a four-game series in Washington against Cincinnati and RHP Tyler Mahle (7-8, 4.53).
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