Mets 8, Nationals 4
Mets manager Terry Collins said it so often in spring training that the line nearly became the team's mantra: ''Carlos Beltran will be a huge part of our lineup.''
Well, on Saturday night, Beltran's bat woke up a limping New York offense.
Beltran hit two early home runs but it was his routine flyball in the sixth inning muffed by left fielder Jerry Hairston Jr. that sparked a three-run rally, and the Mets got several rare clutch hits in beating the Washington Nationals 8-4.
''The only thing he did during spring training was try to get himself ready for the season. We had a plan to get him ready,'' the Mets' new manager said of Beltran, who didn't play the outfield in a Grapefruit League game until the last days of training camp.
Ike Davis hit a two-run triple in the sixth to give New York a 5-4 lead after Hairston's brother, Scott, struck out. Pinch-hitter Daniel Murphy had an RBI single through a drawn-in infield to give the Mets two big hits after they went 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position the previous two games.
''I think any time you're capable of getting hits like that late in the game, it's huge,'' Beltran said. ''It was just a matter of time before we were going to get runs with runners in scoring position and less than two outs.''
Chris Capuano (1-0) pitched six gutsy innings in his first start for the Mets - and first in April since 2007 - as New York rebounded after dropping its home opener Friday.
The left-hander gave up a three-run homer to Danny Espinosa and a solo shot to Ian Desmond but only two other hits. He struck out eight and walked one. Capuano also hit a one-out double in the fifth but was stranded.
Taylor Buchholz pitched a perfect seventh, but Bobby Parnell nearly gave away a 6-4 lead in the eighth. With runners on first and second, Rick Ankiel hit a long drive that soared just foul.
After two strikeouts, Francisco Rodriguez relieved and induced pinch-hitter Matt Stairs into a groundout before finishing for his first save since Aug. 10.
K-Rod also got his first career at-bat in 534 games in the ninth, striking out with the bases loaded after fouling off a pitch. Davis was called out for interfering with Desmond on Josh Thole's grounder past shortstop before Rodriguez came to the plate.
Jose Reyes followed with a two-run double for his first hit in 10 at-bats this season with runners in scoring position to make it 8-4.
Playing on creaky knees, Beltran came in hitting just .190 over the first seven games this season. But he took Tom Gorzelanny (0-1) deep for a two-run shot in the first and hit a solo drive to nearly the same spot in left field in the fourth, both hits coming after David Wright struck out.
''Every time you do something to help the team is a good feeling,'' Beltran said.
Beltran, who switched from center field to right this spring to limit the toll on his knees, had his 28th multihomer game.
In the sixth, Beltran followed Wright's leadoff walk with a long fly to left but this drive was staying in the park. Hairston ranged to his left for what appeared to be an easy out. Hairston, though, turned his head at the last moment and the ball glanced off his glove and Beltran ended up on second, Wright on third.
''I had a good jump on it. It was one of those things - left-center field. I knew Ricky (Ankiel) has very good speed. ... At the last second I kind of felt something like maybe he was going to go after it and I kind of pulled away,'' Hairston said. ''I missed it flat out.''
An out later, Davis sent a drive to deep right-center - one at-bat after he was hit in the hand by a pitch - and slid into third with his second career triple.
''I just wanted to get the tying run in,'' said Davis, who has at least one RBI in seven of the Mets' eight games.
Brian Broderick replaced Gorzelanny and Murphy hit a grounder past Desmond, playing on the infield grass, for another run.
The Mets came in 8 for 40 against Gorzelanny, who was making his first start for Washington since being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs in the offseason. He gave up five runs - four earned - and four hits in 5 1-3 innings. He struck out eight and walked two.
Reyes made a stellar play with the bases loaded for the second game in a row to keep the Mets in it. With two outs in the third, the speedy shortstop ran down Ankiel's popup to shallow left.
''We had opportunities to add on to what little lead we had, and Capuano made the necessary pitches to get out of the inning and shut us down,'' Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said.
NOTES: Nationals 1B Adam LaRoche was given the day off. He has a sore shoulder and Riggleman wanted to give him a rest against a lefty starter. Riggleman said surgery was never discussed as an option for LaRoche, who's been bothered by the shoulder since spring training. LaRoche said he aggravated the injury in Florida on Tuesday. ... Mets C Ronny Paulino's 50-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug ended. That means the Mets will have to place him on the disabled list before Sunday's game. Paulino is sidelined by problems with his stomach and colon.