WASHINGTON — After five fruitless at-bats, Yoenis Cespedes found the perfect moment to lift his team at the end of a long, sloppy game.
The game featured a rough outing from Mets starter Matt Harvey, home runs by both teams, mistakes in the field and on the basepaths. But the Mets (7-1) rode their stout and deep bullpen, led by Seth Lugo, to victory. With Jeurys Familia sitting out to rest, the rookie relief pitcher Jacob Rhame converted the first save of his major league career.
The victory extended the Mets’ win streak to five and gave them a three-game sweep of their division rival.
In the 12th inning, the Mets faced the struggling Nationals relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler. Juan Lagares singled, Amed Rosario executed a sacrifice bunt, and Michael Conforto was intentionally walked. Cespedes poked a ball to the outfield to score Lagares from second base.
The late rally helped the Mets salvage a win despite Harvey’s rough start and a critical run allowed by relief pitcher Robert Gsellman.
Harvey struggled, surrendering a two-run home run to the Nationals slugger Bryce Harper in the first inning. He got more room for error thanks to a grand slam from Adrian Gonzalez in the third inning that gave the Mets a two-run lead.
But Harvey slogged through his final two innings, and was lucky to give up only one run in each. He got help from the chilly weather (which helped knock down Anthony Rendon’s long fly ball in the fourth inning), the Nationals’ mistakes (a baserunning blunder by Trea Turner) and Gonzalez’s heady play (a throw across the diamond that caught Turner in a rundown).
In all, Harvey coughed up four runs on nine hits over five innings.
When Harvey exited, the Mets were leading by a score of 5-4. He was replaced by Gsellman, who had yet to give up a run this season. But Michael Taylor found an opening in between Rosario and Frazier and drove in Harper with a game-tying single.
The Mets’ rookie manager, Mickey Callaway, did not double switch the left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins into the eighth inning, meaning that when Rendon was caught stealing, Blevins’ spot in the lineup was up in the ninth, and a pinch-hitter, Wilmer Flores, was used.
So a right-handed reliever, Lugo, had to face Harper to lead off the ninth inning. He walked Harper and then threw wildly to first base in a pickoff attempt. (It was one of three Mets’ errors.) Harper, however, advanced only to second base when he should have gotten to third. After Matt Adams flied out for the first out, Callaway called for a daring strategy.
He intentionally walked Howie Kendrick and Turner to load the bases to face Taylor and Pedro Severino. Against Taylor, the middle infielders were at double play depth. It didn’t matter; Lugo reared back and struck out Taylor and Severino on six total pitches.
Lugo fired another two scoreless innings, setting up Cespedes’ game-winning hit.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.