WASHINGTON — At least the Mets won’t have to see Kyle Schwarber’s face for another six weeks.
But the larger issue might be, which of these two teams will hold first place in the NL East when the Mets and Nationals reconvene on Aug. 10?
The Nationals are surging and clearly have to be considered a threat. Monday night they used two homers from Schwarber (and blasted five overall) in the Mets’ 8-4 loss at Nationals Park. The latest power display by Schwarber gave him seven homers in his last three games against the Mets.
The Mets, who lost for the ninth time in 14 games, had their NL East lead on the Nationals sliced to three games. The Nationals won for the 14th time in 19 games, but will be tested over the next three weeks, with a brutal stretch of schedule that includes the Rays, Dodgers, Padres and Giants.
Schwarber delivered three homers against the Mets on Father’s Day — after hitting two the previous night in Game 2 of a doubleheader — and tormented Jerad Eickhoff on Monday with blasts in the first and fifth innings. Schwarber’s 15 homers in June are a Nationals record for one month. Bryce Harper held the previous club mark at 13. Schwarber joined Barry Bonds (2001) and Sammy Sosa (1998) as the only players to hit 15 homers in a 17-game stretch.
What the Mets wouldn’t give for a few of them. They received two in the eighth inning on this night, from Pete Alonso and Billy McKinney that sliced their deficit to 5-4. They didn’t score their first run until the seventh, on Jeff McNeil’s RBI single.
Ryan Zimmerman iced the game in the eighth with a three-run homer against Miguel Castro after Travis Blankenhorn cut in front of Francisco Lindor on the shift and committed two errors on Starlin Castro’s grounder.
Paolo Espino, a 34-year-old reliever, was pressed into starting duty for the Nationals a day after Erick Fedde was placed on the injured list with an oblique strain. Espino held the Mets to five hits over five shutout innings.
Eickhoff was a mess early — surrendering homers to three of the first seven batters he faced — but settled down before allowing two later runs. Overall, the right-hander lasted six innings and allowed five earned runs on eight hits with one walk.
Schwarber, leading off the game for the Nationals, hit a towering blast into the upper deck in right. Trea Turner smashed the next pitch into the seats behind the Mets bullpen in left field to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead. Juan Soto followed with a shot off the fence in right-center, but was left stranded as Eickhoff retired the next three batters.
Gerardo Parra homered off the right-field foul pole leading off the second to put the Mets in a 3-0 hole. Eickhoff didn’t allow another run until the fifth, when Schwarber homered again. The Nationals got another run in the sixth on Castro’s RBI single.