Nationals 5, Mets 1

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- A second chance at the plate helped Kurt Suzuki spark a big inning for the Washington Nationals, but Gio Gonzalez needed little help on the mound.

Gonzalez became the first 19-game winner in the major leagues this year with Monday's 5-1 victory over the Mets, a win that was aided by Mets catcher Kelly Shoppach's dropped pop-up.

The Mets lost their fourth in a row, behind rookie starter Collin McHugh. They also lost a chance to help ace R.A. Dickey's bid for a Cy Young award by knocking off Gonzalez, a main competitor for the honor. Instead, Dickey will take the mound Tuesday hoping to win his 19th game and tie Gonzalez.

Washington moved six games up on the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, pending the result of the Braves' game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Mets manager Terry Collins tried juggling his team's batting practice time to shake up his slumping offense, but Gonzalez (19-7) limited the Mets to one run on Scott Hairston's homer. He gave up just three hits while walking five and striking out six in six innings.

Three relievers shut out the Mets the rest of the way. Suzuki, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond homered off McHugh (0-2).

Shoppach's drop of Suzuki's pop in foul territory to start the third came back to bite the Mets and McHugh hard. The rookie starter subsequently gave up a home run to Suzuki. McHugh secured the next two outs, but walked Bryce Harper before Zimmerman smacked a two-run shot into the black over the center-field wall, for a 3-0 lead. The runs were all unearned as it would have been a 1-2-3 inning had Shoppach made the catch.

Washington made it 5-0 on Desmond's two-run homer the next inning, and McHugh exited after four innings. He allowed five runs (two earned) on five hits, while striking out three and walking two.

The Mets scored their first run with their first hit off Gonzalez, on Hairston's homer to lead off the bottom of the fourth.

Collins had acknowledged before the game his minor shift in batting practice times was like "grasping at straws" to try to jumpstart his struggling offense. He had his team take batting practice about a half hour later than usual, noting the Mets averaged more runs on the road, when teams usually take BP later. It didn't show any early results, as the Mets were held hitless in the first three innings.

NOTES: Nationals left-hander Sean Burnett, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 2 due to nerve irritation in his left elbow, threw his first bullpen Monday. He'll throw another one Tuesday and return Wednesday, if there are no setbacks, manager Davey Johnson said. ... Johnson said he wouldn't alter his rotation to set up matchups for this weekend's series against the Atlanta Braves, who began the night 5 1/2 games back of Washington in the NL East. ... Slumping Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada returned to the lineup Monday after Justin Turner filled in for him Sunday. Tejada reached base in his first three plate appearances with two walks and a bloop single.

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