Nats shut out record 3rd game in row; Wheeler, Mets win 3-0

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              New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler delivers the ball to the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018 in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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NEW YORK (AP) — The Washington Nationals tried everything: two straight bunts to begin the game, a hit-and-run play, plus a delayed steal. Once more, it added up to zero.

Bryce Harper and the Nationals were shut out for the third game in a row, something that had never happened since the team moved from Montreal, when Zack Wheeler and the New York Mets posted a 3-0 victory Saturday.

“The name of the game is to score runs,” Harper said. “Just couldn’t get it done.”

Amed Rosario and Todd Frazier hit solo home runs to back Wheeler, who pitched seven innings and won his seventh straight decision.

“I didn’t have the best command today, but I was able to get through it and just figure out ways to get the out,” Wheeler said.

The Nationals fell to 64-66 — they’ve already lost more games than they dropped last year in going 97-65 to take their second consecutive NL East title.

Blanked by Aaron Nola and the Phillies on Thursday and by Jason Vargas and the Mets on Friday night, the Washington bats again went silent at Citi Field.

Not since they were the Montreal Expos and were shut out in three straight by the Florida Marlins in 2004 — all three games were played in Puerto Rico — had the franchise been held down like this. The Expos moved to Washington the next season.

“We can’t score a point,” manager Dave Martinez said. “It’s frustrating. The offense, a lot of zeros.”

“It’s like someone shut the door,” he said.

Wheeler (9-6) gave up six hits and set a career-best winning streak.

“I hope this is who he is,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “I think he can be this.”

Daniel Zamora retired Harper on a flyball to begin the eighth and fellow rookie reliever Drew Smith got the next three outs.

Jerry Blevins recorded the last two outs, completing the combined seven-hitter.

The Nationals tried everything to eke out a run. Adam Eaton bunted for a single on the first pitch of the game and Trea Turner followed with a sacrifice.

Turner delivered a hit-and-run single in the third, then swiped his major league-high 33rd base on a delayed steal. A walk to Harper loaded the bases with one out, but Anthony Rendon lined out and teen rookie Juan Soto grounded out.

“I’m trying to get things going, moving things around,” Martinez said.

“It’s really hard to explain,” he said, adding, “These three days … I’m scratching my head.”

Harper, leading the Nationals with 30 home runs and 81 RBIs, batted with two on in the fifth and hit a hard grounder up the middle that the Mets’ shifted infield quickly turned into a double play to end the threat and keep the game scoreless. Moments after that, Harper and Soto were talking in shallow center field when they almost were hit by warmup ball tossed by an attendant.

Soto, who struck out to strand runners at the corners in the first, was later was caught stealing and thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.

Tanner Roark (8-13) limited the Mets to four hits in six innings, striking out seven without a walk.

Rosario homered in the sixth and Frazier connected in the seventh. Rookie Jeff McNeil singled twice and extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

With the way the Nats are hitting, that was plenty for the Mets. Which left Washington hoping to avoid a shutout sweep on Sunday.

“See if we can nestle a few out,” Harper said.

EASY, GUYS

Wheeler knocked down Eaton with a fastball in the third and hit him in the backside with a pitch in the seventh. The Mets and Eaton had a little back-and-forth during the game. Earlier this month, the Mets thought Eaton made a late, aggressive slide that broke infielder Phillip Evans‘ leg.

SIGN THEM UP

Harper’s bat and cleats for Players’ Weekend had lots of neat colors and notes on them — the designs were done by kids from Harper’s Heroes, his organization that partners with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. One of the children wrote his own nickname on the spikes: Dylan the Destroyer.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Ryan Madson rejoined the team after a week in Phoenix spent trying to alleviate nerve irritation that caused pain in his back and neck. He’ll throw a bullpen session Sunday with Martinez watching to plan out the next step in his recovery. He last pitched on Aug. 12, when he gave up a game-ending grand slam at Wrigley Field. “Looking forward to giving it a shot,” he said. … Soto started his 45th straight game. “I know he needs a break. It could come tomorrow,” Martinez said.

Mets: Devin Mesoraco (next stiffness) could catch an inning or two if needed, Callaway said. C Kevin Plawecki’s wife is due to give birth very shortly. … 3B David Wright went 2-for-4 with a double and a single, scored twice and drove in a run Saturday night for Single-A St. Lucie. The Mets’ captain hasn’t appeared in the majors since May 2016 because of back and shoulder injuries. … CF Brandon Nimmo (left index finger) went 1-for-3 with a stolen base for St. Lucie.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Rookie RHP Jefry Rodriguez (1-1, 5.46 ERA) has pitched five innings in each of his two starts since rejoining the rotation this month.

Mets: LHP Steven Matz (5-10, 4.55) starts vs. the Nationals for the fifth time this year. He was pounded the last time, giving up seven runs and getting only two outs at Washington in a 25-4 loss on July 31.