By Sam Bush
Don’t look now, but the Nats, who were left for dead two weeks ago, are now 38-38 and only three games behind the Mets in NL East.
Thanks to Kyle Schwarber, who homered twice, becoming the first player in major league history to hit 15 home runs in a 17-day span, as the Nats beat the Mets 8-4.
Schwarber socked a 1-0 fastball from Jared Eickhoff an estimated 439 feet into the upper deck in right field in the first inning. It was his sixth leadoff homer this season, and Trea Turner followed with a 435-foot bomb to left to make it 2-0.
Schwarber said afterward he’s not trying to hit home runs.
“I think the biggest thing is just not missing the pitch,” Schwarber said. “Not fouling it off or taking it.”
Schwarber took Eickhoff (0-1), who said he may have been tipping pitches, deep again in the fifth inning, his 24th of the year.
“We’re trying everything,” manager Luis Rojas said of Schwarber. “We’re pitching him in, away, down, up, we’ve bounced balls. We’ve tried everything. This guy is swinging a hot bat.”
The Nationals have won 12 of 15 to return to .500 — their only winning record this year was after their season opener — and move within three games of the first-place Mets in the NL East. Schwarber has powered the team’s surge, setting a franchise record for home runs in any month with his 15 homers in June.
“I don’t think we ever doubted ourselves,” Schwarber said. “I think that was the biggest thing.”
Ryan Zimmerman had a pinch-hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning for the Nationals after New York had cut the lead to 5-4. Gerardo Parra also homered for Washington, his first since rejoining the team on June 20.
“Huge,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said of Zimmerman’s homer. “Huge.”
Paolo Espino (2-2) threw five scoreless innings in a spot start. Brad Hand retired pinch-hitters Michael Conforto and James McCann in the eighth before pitching a scoreless ninth for his 17th save.
The Mets made it interesting in the late innings. Jeff McNeil singled in New York’s first run in the seventh, and Pete Alonso hit a two-run homer, his 12th of the season, off reliever Justin Miller in the eighth. Billy McKinney followed with a homer to right.
The game was a makeup of a contest that was scheduled for the season-opening series between the teams, which was postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Nationals organization.