WASHINGTON — The New York Mets have lost to straight to the Nationals in Washington and they have the home run to blame.
On Friday night, New York was beaten in the ninth inning by a game-ending homer off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman that gave Washington a doubleheader sweep.
Three early blasts off of Dillon Gee were the difference on Saturday in the Nationals' 4-1 victory.
Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Denard Span homered in a span of five batters in the second and third innings, providing all of the Nationals' offense.
New York has dropped two straight to Washington after an 11-0 rout in the doubleheader opener on Friday afternoon.
"The home runs are killing us, there's no doubt," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
David Wright had two singles and an RBI, but the Mets labored against the usually laboring Dan Haren (5-11). The right-hander pitched seven innings for his first win since May 9, allowing one run and three hits.
Desmond and Span hit back-to-back homers against Gee (7-8) in the second inning and Harper followed with a two-run shot in the third to score Haren, who had doubled.
"All the balls were up, belt high over the plate," Collins said. "Certainly, one thing we know they can do – they're a dangerous club, got good power."
Harper returned to the starting lineup after being limited to pinch-hitting duty in the second game of Friday's doubleheader. The All-Star outfielder aggravated his left knee while diving for a ball in the opener.
After Haren's leadoff double in the third, Harper hit his 15th home run of the year.
A home run by Harper isn't surprising, but one by Span certainly is. The former Minnesota Twins outfielder hit his first home run with the Nationals and first for anyone since Oct. 2, 2012, a span of 426 plate appearances.
"The balls they hit out, they were mistakes, they weren't good pitches," said Gee, who pitched seven innings, allowing four runs and six hits. "They did a good job. I was happy to at least get through seven innings.
"That was big. But the damage had been done."
The game was delayed by rain for 62 minutes with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Only scattered fans from the original crowd of 37,464 returned to watch the final five outs.
Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for his 26th save.
In his longest start since May 30, Haren walked one and struck out six.
In between victories, the veteran right-hander made 11 starts, going 0-8 with a 6.18 ERA. Washington lost all 11 games, including three since Haren returned from the disabled list on July 8.
The Mets' first hit came in the fourth on a single by Wright, who nearly homered in the first and sixth innings, but his high-arcing shots down the left-field lane landed foul.
"Gave up a couple of home runs – foul," Haren said. "Thankfully, they were foul today."
With Eric Young Jr. on second following a single and stolen base in the sixth, Wright's two-out single ended Haren's shutout bid.
Haren and the Nationals bullpen held New York to one hit over the final three innings. Tyler Clippard pitched a spotless eighth.
Gee hadn't lost since June 17 and hadn't allowed an earned run in his preceding two starts. He dominated the Nationals in three previous starts this season, posting a 3-0 record with a 0.96 ERA.
"I've had good success (against Washington), but they're still a very good team with really good hitters and they're going to make you pay when you make mistakes like that," said Gee, who allowed only two singles after Harper's homer.
"He gave us a chance to come back, we just couldn't mount anything (offensively)," Collins said.
NOTES: Minus the delay, the game took 2 hours, 17 minutes. ... The Mets are moving to a six-man pitching rotation in an attempt to limit the number of innings pitched by starters Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Following Gee and Carlos Torres in Washington, Jeremy Hefner pitches Monday at Miami followed by Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia and Harvey. ... Torres (1-1, 0.94) opposes Washington's RHP Taylor Jordan (0-3, 3.68) in Sunday's series finale.