Rapid Reaction: Nationals 8, Mets 7

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WHAT IT MEANS: Bobby Parnell's grooming/audition for 2012 closer hit its first rough patch.

Asked to protect a one-run lead in the ninth, Parnell surrendered a leadoff single to Jesus Flores, then delivered a wild pitch before walking Jonny Gomes. Ian Desmond's sacrifice bunt advanced both runners, and an intentional walk to Roger Bernadina loaded the bases.

Ryan Zimmerman then lifted the Nats to the 8-7 victory with a two-run flare to right field beyond Lucas Duda's range. Duda's pursuit of the catch by leaving his feet allowed the ball to get behind him and the winning run to score.

OR SO IT SEEMED: Until Parnell’s blown save, Duda's seventh-inning sacrifice fly that plated Willie Harris for a 7-6 lead stood to be the decisive shot.

Daniel Herrera, in his second appearance since joining the Mets as a player to be named in the Francisco Rodriguez trade, would have earned the win. He entered with the score tied at 6 and runners on the corners in place of Pedro Beato with one out in the sixth. With his second pitch, Herrera induced Ivan Rodriguez into an inning-ending double play. It was Rodriguez's first major league plate appearance since July 6. He had been sidelined with an oblique injury.

Slumping Jason Bay's two-run homer off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny a half-inning earlier had tied the score at 6. Bay homered for the first time since Aug. 8, against San Diego's Tim Stauffer. He had been 0-for-his-last-35 on the road before the long ball, a franchise record for a position player, surpassing Cleon Jones' 0-for-32 in 1972, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Including pitchers, Al Leiter has the franchise-record with an 0-for-70 road skid.

Manny Acosta tossed two scoreless relief innings, including striking out Chris Marrero in the eighth to strand the potential tying run at third base, before turning the ball over to Parnell. Acosta struck out five.

GEE FIZZ: Dillon Gee matched a career high by surrendering three homers (also Aug. 7 against Atlanta). He was charged with six runs in five innings in a no-decision.

Desmond opened the bottom of the first with a homer, but the long ball that must have stung was served up to opposing pitcher Tom Milone, who was making his major league debut. In the first pitch of his first career plate appearance, Milone -- Duda's college teammate at Southern Cal -- took Gee deep for a three-run homer to cap a four-run second as Washington grabbed a 5-0 lead.

The last pitcher to homer in his first career plate appearance was reliever Mark Worrell of the St. Louis Cardinals off Washington's Tim Redding on June 5, 2008, according to Elias. Adam Wainwright, also working in relief with the Cardinals, was the last pitcher to homer on the first pitch of his first career plate appearance, two years earlier.

The last pitcher to homer in his first major league game, regardless of at-bat, was Colorado's Jason Jennings off Donne Wall of the Mets on Aug. 23, 2001.

NICK KNOCK: Nick Evans, who has started 10 straight games at first base, homered in the fourth inning against Milone to cut the Mets' deficit to 5-4. Angel Pagan had produced a two-run single earlier that frame. Evans has homered in consecutive games and has four long balls this season.

FOOT NOTE: Ronny Paulino caught a full game in his return to the lineup. Paulino had last started Aug. 22 and is playing with a broken right big toe.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Mets and Nationals complete this series as Mike Pelfrey (7-11, 4.65 ERA) opposes Washington right-hander Livan Hernandez (8-12, 4.29) Sunday at 1:35 p.m.