With the help of two wild throws on potential double-play grounders in the eighth inning, the 103-loss Nationals scored the tiebreaking run in a 4-3 win over the Mets on Tuesday night for their second straight win.
"It was kind of embarrassing to watch that kind of play -- especially at that time of the game," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "Poor, poor, poor defensive play."
With one out and the scored tied at 3, Mike Morse walked against Nick Green (1-4) and Justin Maxwell ran for him. Cristian Guzman grounded to shortstop, but former Nationals infielder Anderson Hernandez's toss to second was off target, allowing Maxwell to advance and Guzman reached first.
Ian Desmond, who had earlier hit a two-run homer, then grounded to shortstop. Hernandez threw to second baseman Luis Castillo to force Guzman, but Castillo's relay to first landed in Washington's dugout and Maxwell scored.
The Mets, who were considered a championship contender when the season started but had their year wrecked by injuries, matched the 2004 team with their 91st loss. New York hadn't lost more than 79 games since then.
"We have to put forth a better effort than we did tonight," Manuel said.
Castillo also cost the Mets a game in June when he dropped Alex Rodriguez's popup in the bottom of the ninth inning.
"I think I have a chance to turn a double play," Castillo said. "I hurried the ball."
The win was the Nationals' second in a row against New York -- just the second time this month the club with the worst record in the majors has managed back-to-back victories.
"We've played hard all year -- well, the last few months -- and I think we haven't been rewarded too much," interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "We just couldn't find a way to win ballgames. The fact that they have grinded it out, I think you have to be proud of. In September, it's tough to do that."
Tyler Clippard (3-2), who pitched two scoreless innings and worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, got the win. Mike MacDougal picked up his 18th save with a scoreless ninth thanks to Elijah Dukes' spectacular catch to end it.
With Angel Pagan on first, David Wright hit a long fly to right. On a run, Dukes caught it and slammed face-first into the scoreboard in right field. He fell backward, but held on to the ball for the final out.
"When it first came off the bat, I thought it was a double," Dukes said. "I got that good jump, I was gaining ground on the ball and I said I've got a chance."
Manuel, who can't help but feel snakebit, wasn't surprised Dukes made such a wonderful grab.
"The way we're going, I thought he'd climb over the fence and pull it back," Manuel said.
The Nationals trailed 3-0 as the Mets scored once in the first and twice in the second. The first four Mets reached against starter J.D. Martin. Pagan led off with a double. Castillo bunted for a base hit. Wright walked to load the bases, and Pagan scored when Carlos Beltran walked.
In the first four innings, Pelfrey had allowed just Martin's slow roller for a hit in the third. In the fifth inning, he allowed three runs. Desmond blasted a two-run home run, his second. With two outs, Willie Harris, Dukes and Ryan Zimmerman singled. Zimmerman's RBI tied the game at 3.
New York LHP Pedro Feliciano appeared in his 86th game, tying the club record he set a year ago. ... Washington C Wil Nieves returned after missing 10 games with a strained left hamstring. ... Pelfrey said he was leaving the team to visit his ailing grandfather and won't pitch again this season. RHP Nelson Figueroa will start against Houston in the Mets' final game on Sunday. ... Riggleman hasn't named a starter for Saturday's game in Atlanta. It's LHP Ross Detwiler's turn, but the team has shut the rookie down.