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Nats Nix Mets Again

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By RONALD BLUM  AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Craig Stammen got his first win and hit in more
than a year, scoring the go-ahead run on Ryan Zimmerman’s
seventh-inning single to lead the Washington Nationals over the New
York Mets 3-2 Tuesday night before another sparse crowd at Citi
Field.

Stammen (1-1) entered in the sixth with two on, then got three
straight outs to escape the trouble. Stammen then singled off Dale
Thayer (0-2) leading off seventh _ a .217 hitter coming in, Stammen
had not gotten a hit since July 30 last year.

Ian Desmond singled him to second with one out, Rick Ankiel
advanced Stammen by grounding into a forceout against Tim Bydak,
and Zimmerman lined a single to left off Bobby Parnell.
Stammen pitched 1 1-3 hitless innings to win for the first time
since Aug. 4 last year. Drew Storen, Washington’s seventh pitcher,
finished for his 36th save in 41 chances. The Mets put runners at
the corners on two-out singles by Jose Reyes and Ruben Tejada
before Lucas Duda struck out on three pitches.

On a night when the Nationals’ Chien-Ming Wang made his first
start in New York since the Yankees cut him after the 2009 season,
Washington won its third straight and, at 69-77, matched its
victory total from last year (69-93). The fourth-place Nationals
pulled within a game of the Mets _ Washington hasn’t finished as
high as third since 2002, when it was the Montreal Expos and wound
up in second place.

New York (71-77) has lost four in a row and six of seven since
pulling within a game of .500 and is closing in on a third straight
losing season. The Mets were hurt when pitcher Dillon Gee, Nick
Evans and Tejada all failed to get down bunts.

On “Star Wars” night, fans stayed away from Citi Field as if
fleeing Darth Vader. The announced crowd was 25,359 and actual
attendance in the 41,800-capacity ballpark appeared to be half
that. In the fourth inning, the last eight sections in the left
field upper deck held a total of 10 fans.

The Mets are averaging 30,240, according to STATS LLC, down from
32,402 last year and their lowest since 2004. More empty seats
figure to be ahead: $134 Delta Club tickets behind home plate for
Wednesday night’s game were available on StubHub.com for $53.35.
What crowd there was saw Washington’s Jayson Werth, bothered by
a sore calf, back in right field after nine straight starts in
center. He swapped with Ankiel.

It turned out to be key in the fifth after Josh Thole doubled
leading off. Gee struck out attempting to bunt Jose Reyes singled
to center. Ankiel threw on the fly to catcher Wilson Ramos for the
out, a peg slightly up the third-base line but in plenty of time.
The speedy Reyes held at first and advanced to second on Ruben
Tejada’s single. Duda then lined a single to right _ his third hit
of the night _ to drive in the first run. Tejada scored from first
when the one-hopper skipped past Werth for an error, and the second
run became earned when Wang threw a wild pitch.

Washington tied it 2-all in the sixth on RBI doubles from Ankiel
and Michael Morse, the latter on a hop off the center-field wall.
Gee loaded the bases with a pair of walks before Pedro Beato
relieved and retired Chris Marrero on a flyout that Duda caught a
step in front of the right-field warning track.

After Doug Slaton put two on with no outs on a walk and hit
batter, Evans struck out against Stammen following a fouled bunt
attempt. Thole grounded out, and punch-hitter Mike Baxter popped
out.

Wang allowed two runs and nine hits in five innings. He received
warm applause when he came to the plate for the first time in the
third inning.

Gee gave up two runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings. He remained
tied for second among rookies with Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson at
12 wins, three behind the Yankees’ Ivan Nova.

NOTES: Ramos went 0 for 4. He entered 18 for 32 (.563) against
the Mets this year. … RHP Mike Pelfrey starts for the Mets on
Wednesday, and RHP Chris Schwinden, who made his major league debut
against Atlanta last week, will start on Thursday in place of Chris
Capuano, who will be pushed back to Friday at Atlanta. Brad Peacock
and Tom Milone start for the Nationals. … Mets OF Jason Bay was
out of the starting lineup because of a sore right shoulder. …
Washington assigned RHP Garrett Mock outright to Syracuse of the
International League. … Nationals OFs Roger Bernadina (cut on
left hand) and Laynce Nix (strained right groin) could be back
within a few days, according to manager Davey Johnson. OF Corey
Brown may not return this season following surgery to remove an
infection in a knee.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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