With Ian Desmond coming off the disabled list, the Nationals will try to add to their recent dominance of the Mets in Friday night's series opener in the nation's capital.
Washington (73-45) maintained its lead in the NL East - currently four games - by winning eight of 10 on one of its longest road trips of the season. The Nationals wrapped up their trek by taking two of three over West contender San Francisco.
Washington will get three matchups with second-place Atlanta on its six-game homestand, but first it will play three against the Mets (56-62), who have dropped seven of 10 but defeated NL Central-leading Cincinnati 8-4 on Thursday.
The Nationals are 9-3 against New York this season, and Desmond's return might help them continue that success. The shortstop, who has been out since July 21 because of a torn left oblique, was batting .388 with six homers and 17 RBIs in his final 19 games before the injury.
"We haven't really all been together, and we're still missing (catcher) Willy Ramos," manager Davey Johnson told the Nationals' official website. "Getting Desi back, that'll be great."
Desmond is batting .353 over his last 17 games against the Mets, and probable Friday starter Ross Detwiler (6-5, 3.18 ERA) has also been at his best in recent matchups with New York.
The left-hander is 1-0 with a 1.02 ERA in his last three starts versus the Mets and has not allowed a run in two starts against them this season, spanning 12 innings. He pitched seven innings July 17 at Nationals Park but did not get a decision in Washington's 5-4 victory.
An illness limited Detwiler to 4 2-3 innings in a 7-4 loss to Arizona on Sunday. He gave up five runs after allowing a total of two over his two previous outings, each lasting seven innings.
"He was really under the weather before he even started the game," Johnson said. "He lost it during the game and you could tell by his mannerisms that he didn't feel right."
Detwiler will be opposed by Johan Santana (6-8, 4.58), who struggled Saturday in his return from the disabled list. The left-hander, who missed nearly a month because of a sprained right ankle, gave up a season-high eight runs over 1 1-3 innings of a 9-3 loss to Atlanta, leaving him 0-4 with a 17.36 ERA over his last four outings.
"I'm just trying to get my command back," Santana said. "It's been a while since I faced batters of this caliber. I just need to continue to make some progress and improve my command."
Santana is 3-6 with a 7.98 ERA in nine starts since recording the Mets' first no-hitter June 1 against St. Louis. He's allowed one run in each of his past two matchups with Washington, but hasn't defeated the Nationals since May 27, 2009. He was on the wrong end of a 4-0 result April 11 at Citi Field.
Washington's Michael Morse , who is riding a 12-game hit streak, has at least one hit in all nine of his games against the Mets this season but is 0 for 8 lifetime versus Santana.
|New York Mets|
|August 02, 2012||Tim Byrdak||15-Day DL||Sore left shoulder|
|July 31, 2012||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Strained right thumb|
|July 31, 2012||Jason Bay||Day-to-Day||Bruised left calf|
|July 21, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
|July 21, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
|July 11, 2012||Dillon Gee||Day-to-Day||Bloot clot in right shoulder|
|August 13, 2012||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Sore right ankle|
|August 05, 2012||Mark DeRosa||15-Day DL||Left abdominal strain|
|August 01, 2012||Henry Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Strained lower back|
|July 29, 2012||Adam LaRoche||Day-to-Day||Left game - Back tightness|
|July 22, 2012||Ian Desmond||15-Day DL||Torn left oblique|
|July 18, 2012||Jhonatan Solano||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michael Morse is making up for lost time.
Morse hit a grand slam, Bryce Harper also homered and the Washington Nationals became the latest team to tag a struggling Johan Santana in their 6-4 victory over the New York Mets on Friday night.
A strained back muscle sidelined Morse for the first 50 games of the season. He came off the disabled list June 1 and is batting .315 with four home runs and 12 RBIs during a hitting streak that he extended to 13 games Friday night.
"He's in a good spot right now," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "The whole middle of the lineup is really in a good spot."
Johnson made his mark against the Mets, too.
Two days after umpires ordered New York knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to remove two friendship bracelets during his start in Cincinnati, the umpiring crew had Santana put tape over the gold strip on the back of his glove following a complaint from Johnson.
"The hitters didn't complain, but I was worried that when we got people on base the reflection off that shiny gold thing on there could shine in their eyes because it was hitting me in mine," said Johnson, who managed the Mets to a World Series championship in 1986.
Ross Detwiler tossed six solid innings and the Nationals sent Santana to his fifth loss in the last five starts.
Handed a 2-0 lead, the two-time Cy Young Award winner was perfect through three innings. But the NL East leaders strung together four consecutive hits in the fourth, capped by Morse's 12th homer.
Harper, coming off a 3-for-32 road trip, turned on a fastball in the fifth for a two-run shot.
The Nationals, who have the best record in baseball, returned home following an 8-2 trip and have won 11 of 13 overall. Washington remained four games ahead of second-place Atlanta.
Losers of five of seven, the Mets fell to 10-23 since the All-Star break and have dropped 10 of 13 to the Nationals this season.
Detwiler (7-5) allowed three runs and six hits with one strikeout and a walk.
Craig Stammen gave up a homer to Mets newcomer Kelly Shoppach leading off the seventh and Drew Storen worked the eighth. Tyler Clippard walked two in the ninth before earning his 26th save.
Since throwing a career-high 134 pitches to finish off the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1, Santana (6-9) has lost seven of 10 decisions. The 33-year-old left-hander, who missed last season following shoulder surgery, permitted six runs and seven hits over five innings in his second outing since spending three weeks on the disabled list with a sprained ankle.
That period of rest was also intended to recharge his surgically repaired shoulder. But he lasted only 1 1-3 innings last Saturday against Atlanta, the worst start of his career, and couldn't slow down the Nationals, either.
"My season has been a roller-coaster - a lot of ups and downs, good days, bad days - but I'm very positive because I'm coming back from a major surgery," Santana said.
Santana is 0-5 with a 15.63 ERA in his past five starts, allowing at least six runs in each appearance. His ERA was 2.76 through June but now sits at 4.85.
"Early in the game, his command was good," Mets manager Terry Collins said." Just all of a sudden, left some balls in the middle of the plate and they hit `em hard."
Santana gave up consecutive singles to Jayson Werth , Harper and Ryan Zimmerman in the fourth, loading the bases for Morse. The cleanup man launched a 1-1 fastball the opposite way to right-center for a 4-2 Nationals lead.
Werth kept the fifth inning alive with a two-out single and the 19-year-old Harper sent a shot to right-center for his 11th home run.
"We tried to come up and in to Morse and it just stayed up pretty much in the middle of the plate," Santana said. "I was supposed to throw a fastball away to Harper and it just came back in there. That's telling me I have to work on my command. But compared to my last (start), I felt this one was way better."
After getting two quick outs in the first, Detwiler gave up three consecutive hits, including one of three doubles by Scott Hairston and a two-run single by Daniel Murphy .
Detwiler then walked Ronny Cedeno , but avoided further damage and allowed only one run and three hits over his final five innings. In three starts this season against the Mets, the lefty is 2-0 with 1.50 ERA.
Cedeno's RBI groundout in the sixth scored Hairston.
Zimmerman shined defensively early with three sparkling plays on hard-hit grounders. The third baseman later started a key 5-4-3 double play in the eighth with the potential tying run at the plate.
"That's why they gave him the Gold Glove a couple of years ago," Detwiler said. "They need to give him another one right now."
Before the game, the Nationals activated All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond from the 15-day disabled list. With his return from a 25-game absence due to an oblique strain and other core members missing time this season with injuries, the Nationals had Desmond, Werth, Harper, Zimmerman, Morse and Adam LaRoche in the lineup together for the first time.
NOTES: Desmond finished 0 for 4. To make room for him, the Nationals designated veteran infielder Cesar Izturis for assignment. ... Hairston's three doubles matched a team record. ... Including the series opener, Washington plays 27 of its final 44 games at home, more than any team in the majors during the remainder of the season. ... Saturday's pitching matchup pits left-hander Jonathon Niese against Washington RHP Edwin Jackson .