WASHINGTON (AP) — Just about everyone else has been hitting well during the New York Mets’ winning streak. It was time for Josh Thole to join in on the fun.
Thole had only four RBIs on the season as the Mets prepared to open a six-game road trip Tuesday night. He promptly added three more, including a two-run double that put New York ahead for good in the sixth inning of a 6-4 victory over the Washington Nationals.
“I think he’s starting to get confident in his play,” manager Terry Collins said. “He’s overachieved his whole life, his whole career. He’s one guy that tries, tries hard. We talked before the game about, ‘Hey, look, just play your game.’ He comes up with big hits and that’s what his career has been about.”
The Mets have won five straight, their best streak since taking eight in a row from June 10-18 last season. They’ve moved within three games of .500 as they continue to recover from a dreadful start.
“A couple of weeks ago everybody was trying so hard. I guess you could use the phrase they were pressing a little bit,” Collins said. “It’s amazing how all of a sudden things just start turning your way.”
Thole’s first RBI was a mere groundout that scored Jason Bay, but it was enough to get him going. In the sixth, he got the better of Doug Slaten, who was brought on to create a lefty-lefty matchup. Thole hit a slider into the left field corner to score Bay and Ike Davis, breaking a 3-3 tie.
“I needed it bad,” Thole said. “For myself, just picking up the RBI in the (second) inning was a little bit of a confidence booster for myself. To be able to get the big hit and for Terry to stay with me was huge.”
Chris Young pitched 4 2-3 innings, allowing three runs and four hits in his first start since returning from the disabled list with tendinitis in his right biceps.
“He started to run out of gas,” Collins said. “Would have liked to have gotten another out of him.”
Ryota Igarashi (1-0) pitched to only one batter, striking out Jayson Werth with men on second and third to end the fifth inning. Igarashi, Taylor Buchholz, Jason Isringhausen and Francisco Rodriguez allowed only one run over 4 1-3 innings, with Rodriguez pitching the ninth for his fifth save.
The Nationals, opening a seven-game homestand, have lost five of six. They’ve been struggling at the plate, and three of their runs came off solo homers. Wilson Ramos hit a pair — the first multihomer game of his career — and Werth hit his fourth of the season.
Jordan Zimmermann (1-4) allowed five runs and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings. He kept the Nationals’ streak alive as the only team to have their starters go at least five innings in every game — but the sixth did him in. He gave up back-to-back singles to Bay and Davis before leaving the game, but he made the case that he should have stayed in to face Thole.
“I felt good all night,” Zimmermann said. “The pitch count was low, and they weren’t hitting me that hard.”
Another reason to keep Zimmermann in: Slaten has allowed eight of 19 inherited runners to score.
“That’s the No. 1 key to my job, probably, is coming in and getting guys out when guys are on base,” Slaten said. “Right now there’s a few that have dropped in. I still have confidence going out there, throwing pitches, throwing strikes, and luck will change a little bit.”
Notes: Davis had three hits; he is 13 for 28 during an eight-game hitting streak. … The Nationals placed SS Ian Desmond on the paternity leave list and recalled OF Roger Bernadina from Triple-A Syracuse. Desmond’s wife, Chelsey, gave birth Tuesday to the couple’s first son, Grayson Wesley Desmond. Manager Jim Riggleman says he expects Desmond to miss two games. … Washington 3B Ryan Zimmerman, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle, is playing catch and doing some running. Riggleman said Zimmerman will probably have a rehabilitation assignment before returning to the big league club. … Before the game, the Mets visited wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)