WASHINGTON (AP) — Star slugger Juan Soto danced on the dugout roof to celebrate solo shots by Howie Kendrick and Josh Harrison, and the Washington Nationals returned from a coronavirus-caused four-day break to beat the injury-depleted New York Mets 5-3 in a rain-interrupted game Tuesday night.
Kendrick — who missed Washington’s last two games with a bad back, so hadn't played in a week — went 4 for 4. Harrison drove in two runs and stole a base, and Patrick Corbin (1-0) allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings while striking out eight.
“We need him in the lineup, whenever we can,” manager Dave Martinez said about Kendrick. “I've got to give him days off, I know that, but in a shortened season like (this), we've got to get him out there as much as possible.”
The Nationals won their third consecutive game after a 1-4 start; the Mets are 4-8 after losing six of seven.
“We're not happy with the results,” said Mets starter Steven Matz (0-2). “We're a better team than what the standings show. ... I think we have a chance to still do something special.”
Reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list after being out since opening day, Soto made his presence felt for the 2019 World Series champions without appearing in the game.
When Kendrick drove Matz's changeup over the wall in the first, Soto — who was sitting in the stands, wearing a red mask — hopped atop the home dugout and boogied as the speakers blared Montell Jordan’s 1995 hit, “This Is How We Do It."
Soto repeated the celebration when Harrison delivered his first homer of 2020 an inning later.
Martinez didn't see Soto's two-step, but he's absolutely fine with it.
“I missed that one. They told me about it,” the skipper said. “That’s who these guys are. ... I want these guys to have fun.”
By the third, the cushion was 5-0 for Washington, which hadn’t played since Thursday; a series at Miami was postponed because the Marlins had a COVID-19 outbreak.
Matz went just three innings, allowing all five runs.
“It was almost like he didn’t have that zip behind the ball,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said.
Michael Conforto’s two-run homer and Pete Alonso’s RBI single cut New York’s deficit to 5-3.
Washington’s relievers made that stand up. Ryne Harper got out of Corbin’s two-on, two-out jam in the sixth, Tanner Rainey got out of Harper’s two-on, no-out trouble in the seventh, Javy Guerra worked around two singles in the eighth after a 67-minute rain delay, and Daniel Hudson pitched the ninth for his second save in two chances, getting Wilson Ramos to fly out with a man on to end it.
"If you can keep inherited runners from scoring, that's part of a bullpen's job," Rainey said.
The Mets were missing three starting infielders. They put second baseman Robinson Canó on the IL with a strained left leg muscle, while third baseman Jeff McNeil and shortstop Amed Rosario were listed as day-to-day.
Speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton, acquired from San Francisco over the weekend, was selected from the Mets’ alternate training site but didn’t play.
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES
The Mets’ overnight plane from Atlanta went through a storm. “It got a little bumpy," Rojas said. “I was looking around — I saw a few people kind of, like, holding onto their seats.” ... Hamilton’s flight from New York was canceled, but when he was told he could take a train, he declined — citing TV. “I watch too much ‘Criminal Minds’ for the train,” Hamilton joked. He used a car service for the roughly four-hour drive.
Mets: McNeil strained a muscle between ribs on his right side. Even sidelined, his 2020 error total rose: MLB made a scoring change in a July 28 game against Boston, switching a hit for Kevin Plawecki to a throwing error by McNeil. ... Rosario has left quad tightness. ... Starting for Canó was Brian Dozier, a member of the Nationals last season. Dozier went 1 for 4, made a fielding error and was thrown out trying to get to second base on a wild pitch in the eighth.
Nationals: Martinez said he would speak with Soto after the game and “hopefully, he'll be ready to go tomorrow.” ... RHP Wander Suero was reinstated from the 10-day IL; OF Andrew Stevenson went to the alternate training site.
Wednesday’s series finale features a pair of former Tigers teammates: Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (0-1, 2.84 ERA) vs. Mets RHP Rick Porcello (0-1, 13.50). Porcello is seeking his 150th win.
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