The Mets only had four hits on Sunday -- but that's all they needed in a 2-0 victory over the Nationals.
The biggest of them all came from John Buck -- who else? -- who crushed a 3-1 fastball from Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann into the second-deck in left-center field in the second inning, giving the Mets a 1-0 lead.
Not many balls land in that section of Citi Field. Buck couldn't help but smile about it after the game. "That felt pretty good," Buck said.
Buck now leads the major leagues in RBIs with 22. And he is tied for second in home runs with seven. Only three other Mets have had 22 or more RBIs in the month of April: Jeff Kent (26, 1994), Carlos Beltran (23, 2007), and Bernard Gilkey (23, 1996). And the team still has eight games left this month, plus had three games postponed.
"I don’t know where we’d be without John Buck," manager Terry Collins said. "He’s been outstanding offensively. Defensively, I think he’s brought some leadership behind the plate. ... On both sides of the ball he’s been outstanding."
SURPRISE, SURPRISE: The Mets' bullpen had the worst ERA in the big leagues, 5.47, coming into this game. But they came through in a big way on Sunday.
Brandon Lyon pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. Then 31-year-old rookie Scott Rice came on to pitch the eighth and put himself in a precarious position, giving up a leadoff single to Steve Lombardozzi followed by a walk to Denard Span.
The next batter, Jayson Werth, took three straight balls, and it appeared Rice had completely lost the strike zone. But then Werth stunningly swung at Rice's 3-0 offering, grounding into a 6-4-3 double play. Then Rice struck out Bryce Harper to complete the escape act. (Bobby Parnell pitched a spotless ninth to earn the save.)
"I was having a little trouble getting the ball over the plate today, but I was able to make the pitch when it mattered, and got out of it," Rice said.
It wasn't quite that simple. Werth certainly did the Mets a favor.
"Jayson Werth's a great player. He's a big-time player," Collins said. "To be honest, I was a little surprised he swung in that particular situation, but I've seen those big hitters do that. Sometimes they hit it over the fence, but sometimes they hit ground-ball double plays."
Perhaps David Wright summed it up best: "We got lucky on that one."
STATE OF THE SQUAD: The Mets (9-8) are back over .500, after taking two of three from the Nationals (10-8) this weekend.
Washington is widely regarded as the favorite in the National League East, and arguably the most talented team in all of Major League Baseball. And the Nationals pitched their top three starters -- Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.
"These guys are obviously one of the best teams in the National League," Wright said. "And when you get Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, you know you’re gonna have your work cut out for you. So to take two out of three was good for us, especially early in the year, for confidence."
The Mets had lost seven straight series against Washington. The Nationals had won nine of their past 10 games at Citi Field, and 13 of their past 15.
"You’ve got to take care of business at home, you’ve got to take care of business in your division," Wright said, "and we accomplished both those in this first series."