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Nats fall below .500 again with Saturday's loss to Mets

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USA TODAY Sports

Nats fall below .500 again with Saturday's loss to Mets

Zack Wheeler won for the first time since April 29, Michael Conforto homered and the New York Mets defeated the Washington Nationals, 7-4 on Saturday.

Wilmer Flores, Jose Reyes and Kevin Plawecki each had two hits as the light-hitting Mets scored seven runs for the first time since June 24. New York came into the game last in the National League in batting average and was tied with San Diego for the third-fewest runs scored in the majors.

Wheeler (3-6) was brilliant for seven innings before tiring in the eighth in his longest outing since June 19, 2014. He struck out seven and allowed just one hit through the first five innings. The 28-year old right-hander opened the season with a victory against Miami on April 11 and then defeated the Padres two weeks later. The victory snapped a 13-start winless streak and was Wheeler's first victory at Citi Field this season, despite allowing just 10 earned runs over his last 37 2-3 innings at home.

New York roughed up Austin Voth (0-1), who was making his major league debut. After a quiet first inning that included the 26-year old right-hander striking out Mets leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo on three pitches, Voth ran into immediate trouble in the second. Flores singled to lead off the frame and moved to second on a Plawecki single. Voth was unable to help his own cause, pausing for too long after fielding Jose Reyes' chopper to throw out the still speedy infielder. Amed Rosario remained hot, singling through the right side to score Flores with the first run of the game.

Wheeler lofted a sacrifice fly and Nimmo drove in a run with a groundout to give New York a three-run lead.

The Mets reached Voth for four in the fifth, three coming on Conforto's first home run since June 26. Voth, who did not pitch in his two prior stints with Washington allowed all seven runs and struck out three. He was the fourth starting pitcher to make his major league against the Mets, but was the first to suffer a loss.

Brandishing a fastball that touched 97 and an assortment of breaking pitches, Wheeler was able to keep Washington off-balance until the Nationals finally broke through on Bryce Harper's RBI single in the sixth. New York manager Mickey Callaway left Wheeler in the game to face Harper again with a runner on in the eighth, and the right-hander struck out the slumping Harper on seven pitches. Harper finished 1 for 4 and has just two multi-hit games since June 9. The All-Star outfielder had a pre-game meeting with manager Dave Martinez after Harper failed to run out a fifth-inning ground ball Friday.

After finding success against Harper, Wheeler wasn't as lucky against Matt Adams. Adams lofted a fly ball to right field that appeared to carom off a fan's hands and was played by Jose Bautista, who immediately pointed in the fan's direction. The play was ruled a home run and after a crew chief review, remained a home run, ending Wheeler's day.

Jeurys Familia pitched a perfect for his 17th save in 21 chances.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) is scheduled for a rehab start Sunday for Single-A Potomac. Manager Dave Martinez indicated he hoped Strasburg would throw between 80 and 85 pitches. Strasburg would be in position to start Washington's first game after the All-Star break versus Atlanta . Catcher Matt Wieters was given the day off after playing in three straight games. He was activated from the disabled list on July 9 after missing two months after surgery on his left hamstring.

Mets: Infielder T.J. Rivera (Tommy John surgery) was removed after five innings from a rehab game with Triple-A Las Vegas Friday with discomfort in his right arm. He is scheduled to undergo further testing . OF Yoenis Cespedes (strained right hip flexor) is ready to progress to something "a little more strenuous", although Callaway did not indicate what Cespedes' next would be. The Mets will play three games against the New York Yankees after the All-Star break and Callaway left open the possibility that the ailing outfielder could serve as the Mets' designated hitter for the series. Callaway did note that Cespedes would return as New York's left fielder, ending any speculation of a potential position change for the 32-year old.

UP NEXT

RHP Jeremy Hellickson (3-1, 3.47 ERA) takes to the mound for Washington in the final game before the All-Star break. Hellickson spun five scoreless frames against Pittsburgh on July 10. He has reached the sixth inning just once in 12 starts and has yet to reach 100 pitches. He'll be opposed by New York's Corey Oswalt (0-2, 6.75 ERA).

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Davey Martinez meets with Bryce Harper after he jogs to first

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Davey Martinez meets with Bryce Harper after he jogs to first

Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez met with star Bryce Harper on Saturday a day after the outfielder failed to run out a ground ball in the fifth inning of Washington's 4-2 loss to the New York Mets.

"I've spoken to Bryce and that's a conversation that will stay between Bryce and I," Martinez said.

Harper came up to the plate in the fifth against hard-throwing Noah Syndergaard with one out and two runners on after singles by Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon. Syndergaard threw the 25-year old slugger a 96 mph slider and Harper hit the ball sharply, but right at Mets shortstop Amed Rosario for an inning-ending double play.

Martinez dismissed the notion that there would be any lingering issues from having a talk with his star player.

"I forgot about it, I really have," the first-year manager said. "We have a ballgame to win today and he's been a big part of that."

Although Harper is tied for second in the National League with 23 home runs, he's hitting a career-low .214 and ranks among the NL leaders with 100 strikeouts. The six-time All-Star is 8 for 45 in July and has just three hits in his past 22 at-bats entering Saturday. Harper is set to be a free agent at the end of the season.

"He wants to win, that's all he cares about," Martinez said. "Regardless of his average, he has 23 home runs and 53 RBI. I believe that he's going to hit 40 and drive in 100. I'm a big fan of Bryce. I love the kid because of what he brings every day. He's a good kid, that's all I can say."

Harper will participate in Monday's Home Run Derby and was elected to start in Tuesday's All-Star Game, set to be played at Nationals Park in Washington.

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

At his final media availability of the 2017-18 season, John Wall highlighted specific types of players he wanted to see added to the Wizards roster this summer. Most notably, he pointed to an athletic big and bench scoring.

The Wizards ended up adding those things and more.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green to free agent deals, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. Howard is the athletic big and Rivers is the bench scorer Wall coveted.

Whether coincidental or not, Wall got his wish. And he's excited for the possibilities now that the Wizards appear to have shored up some weaknesses.

In his recent interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall offered thoughts on each key addition.

On Howard: "Even though he's older, he's still an athletic big and still has respect in this league. I mean, averaging [16.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg], he's a guy who can score in the low-post and block shots, a guy that gets a lot of rebounds and a guy that can catch lobs and do things that when teams switch against us or we're attacking the paint, if they help for a second then we're throwing lobs. Now, do you get more layups? Probably. Or, you get more wide open threes because guys are going to have to crack down on him. If you don't crack down on him, that's an automatic layup or a lob. I think that benefits us a lot. It's going to help. If you look at [Clint] Capela, DeAndre [Jordan] and those types of guys that are athletic, JaVale [McGee]. Even JaVale at times, being athletic and just getting to the paint. Guys are stepping up and you're throwing lobs to those guys. We have a person that can do that."

On Rivers: "I think it's going to be fun and interesting. Austin is someone who I've always watched since high school. He's a competitive guy. He definitely can score the ball. High volume shooter, once he gets it going, he's going. I think it just gives us that guy that we've never really had off the bench, that can create for himself and can create for his teammates at the two-guard position."

On Green: "Just being able to switch one through four, a guy that can post up if you put smaller guys on him. He can guard every position. He's athletic and can run the floor with us in transition. He does the little things that a lot of people don't notice."

On Brown: "He's very poised for his age. He doesn't try to force anything. The only thing I would tell him is just be more aggressive... and make mistakes. Try to make mistakes and improve your game to get better. It's going to be hard to find minutes and at practice at times with [Kelly Oubre, Jr.] and Otto [Porter, Jr.] and those guys being there."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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