NEW YORK (AP) — Jay Bruce hit a two-run homer in his return from a long stint on the disabled list, Jason Vargas tossed six stellar innings and the New York Mets beat Washington 3-0 on Friday night to hand the Nationals their second consecutive shutout.
Wilmer Flores had an early RBI single and the Mets got spotless relief work from Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to finish the four-hitter.
The stingy pitching finally helped New York get the best of a familiar nemesis in Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (7-11), who has lost nine of his last 10 decisions. The left-hander allowed only one run in seven innings but dropped to 11-2 with a 1.75 ERA at Citi Field and 15-6 against the Mets in his career.
Bruce was activated before the game after missing more than two months with a sore right hip, and the Mets plan to audition the veteran outfielder at first base down the stretch. But the three-time All-Star started at his regular spot in right field during his first big league game since June 17 and connected against lefty reliever Tim Collins in the eighth.
The drive to right-center was only the fourth home run this season for Bruce, who batted just .212 with 17 RBIs in 62 games before landing on the DL.
Featuring a deceptive changeup, Vargas (4-8) permitted three hits and struck out a season-high eight without issuing a walk. The resurgent lefty, who entered with a 7.67 ERA, has put together two straight wins and three solid starts in a row late in his previously dismal season.
Lugo threw two perfect innings, striking out three, and Gsellman closed for his eighth save.
After a one-out double by Anthony Rendon in the ninth, Gsellman struck out slugger Bryce Harper and retired cleanup hitter Ryan Zimmerman on a game-ending grounder.
Washington (64-65) was blanked 2-0 on Thursday by All-Star ace Aaron Nola and the Phillies. The Nationals have lost eight of 12 and been shut out 13 times this season, third-most in the majors.
Nationals: Gonzalez got hit on the left foot by a line drive in the sixth. Twice he was checked by a trainer and manager Dave Martinez, but Gonzalez stayed in the game even after grimacing in the seventh. … Stephen Strasburg said he felt good after throwing about 40 pitches in a bullpen session, Martinez said, and the right-hander remains scheduled to make his next start. After missing a month with a pinched nerve in his neck, Strasburg returned Wednesday and lasted four innings against Philadelphia. He gave up two homers and five runs. … Washington closer Sean Doolittle (left toe inflammation) threw on flat ground again and felt pretty good, Martinez said.
Mets: David Wright went 1 for 4 with a single in his ninth rehab game for Class A St. Lucie. He had two assists and a putout in nine innings at third base. The Mets’ captain, who hasn’t appeared in the majors since May 2016 because of back and shoulder injuries, is hitting .143 (4 for 28). … C Devin Mesoraco sat out with neck stiffness. New York manager Mickey Callaway said Mesoraco had an MRI that revealed only muscular issues, so he won’t need to go on the DL and he could catch in a pinch. Kevin Plawecki was behind the plate, but his pregnant wife is due at any moment so the team promoted Tomás Nido from Double-A Binghamton as insurance.
A matchup between resurgent starting pitchers on a roll, as Washington RHP Tanner Roark (8-12, 4.05 ERA) faces Mets RHP Zack Wheeler (8-6, 3.63) on Saturday afternoon. Roark is 5-0 with a 1.63 ERA in his past six starts. Wheeler, who beat the Nationals at home on July 14, is 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last seven outings. He struck out a season-high 10 over seven innings last time out against San Francisco, but is 3-8 with a 4.79 ERA in 12 career starts vs. Washington.
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