WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — As New York Mets manager Terry Collins knows all too well by now, it’s tough to get victories day in and day out if you don’t manage to get runners home.

“We’ve got to go score some runs. That’s how you win the games. We like our pitching. We think we’ll stay in games,” Collins said. “But we got to put some points up, too.”

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New York’s struggling offense left 10 men on base and went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position — the lone hit in such situations coming from starting pitcher Matt Harvey — and the Mets opened a series against the NL East-leading Washington Nationals with a 7-2 loss.

Clint Robinson’s two-run double to deep center was the biggest blow as the Nationals jumped on Harvey for five runs in the first three innings.

“There’s been a lot made out of this road trip, and I know he was kind of jacked-up because of it,” Collins said about Harvey, “so I think he overthrew a little bit.”

Dialing up his fastball to 99 mph, Harvey (8-7) retired the last 14 batters he faced after his rocky beginning. He wound up going seven innings, charged with five runs — four earned — and five hits.

“When you can’t find it, maybe you try a little bit too hard to find it right away, instead of toning it down a little bit,” Harvey said.

Nationals manager Matt Williams pointed to one key for his batters: staying away from Harvey’s high fastball.

Harvey delivered a bloop single to right on an 0-2 count with the bases loaded in the fourth off Gio Gonzalez (7-4), who allowed two runs in six innings.

Otherwise, the Mets continued to have problems at the plate.

“We’re frustrated, obviously. … We’re going to score runs, but it is getting a little bit old,” New York’s Eric Campbell said.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis walks to the dugout after striking out in the ninth inning during the Mets' 7-2 loss to the Nationals on July 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Kirk Nieuwenhuis walks to the dugout after striking out in the ninth inning during the Mets’ 7-2 loss to the Nationals on July 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

With two on in the fifth, he sent a booming drive to center field. Nationals outfielder Michael A. Taylor made a long run for a nice grab before bumping into the out-of-town video scoreboard to end the inning.

“I was thinking ‘triple’ right out of the box,” Campbell said.

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Gonzalez sure appreciated the effort, raising his index finger to point in Taylor’s direction.

“You’ve got to show love,” Gonzalez said, “when love is due.”

The Mets had other problems. Third baseman Daniel Murphy made two errors — one fielding, one throwing. They let Bryce Harper score from second during a rundown after a pitch in the dirt.

Collins aligned his rotation to have his top pitchers face Washington, and he didn’t try to hide how important he believes this matchup is. The Nationals opened the series two games ahead of the Mets.

“We’re trying to catch these guys, so it’s big,” Collins said beforehand. “It’s big for us.”

New York slipped to three games back in the division with the loss.


Mets: LF Michael Cuddyer sat out because of a sore left knee but he was available to pinch hit.

Nationals: LF Jayson Werth (bruised left wrist) and 2B-3B Anthony Rendon (strained left quad), both on the DL, were scheduled to play in minor league games Monday.


Reigning NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.14 ERA) will make his first appearance for the Mets since his terrific All-Star outing — three strikeouts on only 10 pitches — and try to beat Washington for the first time. In three career starts against the Nationals, the righty is 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA. The Nationals plan to call up rookie RHP Joe Ross (2-1, 2.66) from the minors for his fourth start in the majors.

“We got Jake going tomorrow, (Noah) Syndergaard the next day. Got to like it,” Collins said.

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