R.A. Dickey matched a career high with five walks and the Mets went hitless in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position and lost to the Washington Nationals, 6-2, on Friday at Citi Field. It was the Mets’ third straight defeat and dropped them under .500 at 3-4.
The Mets also fell to 31-19 in home openers.
Rotation incumbents Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and Dickey have combined to produce only 11 innings during the three-game losing streak.
With the Mets trailing 3-2, Nats reliever Chad Gaudin consecutively walked Brad Emaus and Josh Thole to open the bottom of the seventh. With the pitcher’s slot due up and Daniel Murphy in the on-deck circle as pinch-hitter, Terry Collins instead opted for Chin-lung Hu to pinch-hit and bunt.
Hu sacrificed the runners ahead, and Washington manager Jim Riggleman inserted Tyler Clippard. The ex-Yankee struck out Jose Reyes and retired Angel Pagan on a comebacker as the Mets stranded two runners in scoring position.
A half-inning later, Ivan Rodriguez snapped an 0-for-12 drought to open the season with a two-run single against Bobby Parnell. Two of the three runs scored by Washington in the inning were charged to Tim Byrdak.
• WILD THING: The final of Dickey’s five walks, which came in the fifth inning with the bases loaded to Michael Morse, forced in a run and gave the Nationals a 3-1 lead.
It was the fourth time in Dickey’s career he had issued five walks, and the first time since July 5, 2008 with Seattle against Detroit.
This time, Dickey was bailed out of further damage after the Morse walk when Reyes made a highlight-reel diving stop to his left on a hard grounder from Rick Ankiel and began an inning-ending double play that might otherwise have given the Nats a four-run lead.
Earlier, opposing pitcher Jordan Zimmermann put Dickey in a 2-0 hole in the second inning when he lined a two-strike pitch over first baseman Ike Davis and into right field with two out and the bases loaded for a two-run single.
Dickey had walked the preceding two batters, Danny Espinosa and Rodriguez, to load the bases. The inning ended when Carlos Beltran, via the relay man Emaus, threw out Rodriguez trying to go first-to-third on Zimmermann’s single.
Dickey was replaced by pinch-hitter Lucas Duda in the fifth with the Mets trailing by two runs, after Thole’s one-out single. Duda delivered an RBI double that hit directly on the right-field line to pull the Mets within 3-2.
Meanwhile, Dickey’s line: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 3 K.
It matched the second-shortest start of Dickey’s nearly one-year Mets career. His shortest start came Aug. 8 of last season when he allowed six runs (four earned) in three innings against the Philadelphia Phillies.
• SECOND COMING: Emaus, not a heralded fielder, made at least three solid plays at second base. In addition to the relay throw to third base to retire Rodriguez, Emaus also threw out Ankiel at the plate with the infield in after fielding Rodriguez’s grounder for the second out of the fourth. An inning later, Emaus ranged behind the bag at second and slid to field Jayson Werth’s grounder. Werth narrowly beat the throw to first, but Emaus showed solid range.
• FOUR-LORN: The good news: Reyes has produced a hit in five straight games to lead off the Mets’ first inning. The bad news: He has been stranded in scoring position in each of the last four games.
This time, Reyes had an infield single and reached second on a wild pitch. But Pagan struck out, David Wright flied out to center and Beltran lined out to right field.
• FOUR SCORE: Davis has an RBI in six of the Mets’ first seven games. His fourth-inning sacrifice fly scored Wright, who had doubled, to pull the Mets within 2-1.
Davis missed a later opportunity to pull the Mets even, although he felt wronged. After a one-out double by Beltran in the sixth, Nats manager Riggleman inserted left-handed reliever Doug Slaten to face Davis. During the at-bat, Beltran advanced to third on a passed ball. But Davis then was called out on strikes by plate umpire Tony Randazzo. Davis did not like the call, which he felt was outside, and jawed with Randazzo before returning to the dugout.
The Mets’ threat ended and they remained trailing 3-2 when Scott Hairston then pinch-hit for Willie Harris and was struck out by Gaudin, who replaced Slaten.
In addition to driving in a run Friday, Davis had produced at least one RBI in each of the Mets’ first five games. That was narrowly shy of the franchise record held by Wright, who drove in a run in six straight games to open the 2006 season.
• NEXT: Fifth-starter Chris Capuano, whose opening turn waits until the eighth game, finally makes his first Mets start Saturday, opposite fellow southpaw Tom Gorzelanny. Capuano appeared once in relief, when Collins needed to pull him in the series finale in Miami last Sunday after Capuano allowed one run on three hits and a walk and recorded only two outs.
“I think I had some nerves in my first bullpen appearance,” Capuano said. “So I was kind of happy to get that first appearance out of the way.”
As for whether he got off-rhythm because of the gap between starting opportunities, Capuano said: “A couple of days ago I went out there with Dan [Warthen] and threw about 65, 70 pitches in the bullpen just to make sure we kept that volume up there. I feel great, ready to go.”
• BAY WATCH: Jason Bay is eligible to return from the disabled list Saturday. However, he just started swinging off a tee Thursday, so his stay in Port St. Lucie will continue. … Ronny Paulino will need to be placed on the disabled list Saturday, after completing a 50-game MLB suspension for a performance-enhancing substance. Paulino was cleared Thursday to begin working out following a blood issue related to anemia.
• K-ROD TRACKER: Francisco Rodriguez did not pitch. He has one game finished in the Mets’ first seven games. K-Rod needs to finish 54 of the Mets’ final 155 games for his contract to vest at $17.5 million for 2012.