By JOSEPH WHITE
AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The worst bullpen in the majors faced an offense that hadn’t managed a late-inning comeback all season.
The bullpen lost.
The New York Mets were the perfect team to allow the 2013 Washington Nationals to finally learn what it’s like to pull out a win when all hope is just about gone. Mets closer Bobby Parnell, who had been mostly immune from the woes of the relief brigade, joined the misery by allowing a pair of runs in the ninth Tuesday night in a 3-2 loss.
“I left a few balls over the middle that I didn’t like,” Parnell said. “But they’re a good hitting team. It’s a good part of the lineup, and I didn’t walk them or anything like that. They hit some decent pitches, but I could’ve been better.”
Parnell (4-2) blew a save opportunity for the third time this season, but he had converted his last seven. His ERA rose to 2.55, but that’s an outlier for a bullpen that entered the game with a major league-worst 4.90 mark and had just allowed 12 runs in 8 1-3 innings during a three-game sweep by the Marlins.
The Mets have lost four straight, and they spoiled a solid start by Jeremy Hefner, who allowed one run and four hits over seven innings. Omar Quintanilla drove in both New York runs with a fourth-inning, two-out triple, getting the chance after the Nationals’ slow reaction allowed a chopper by Jordany Valdespin to become an infield hit and a subsequent throwing error by first baseman Adam LaRoche.
That gave New York a 2-1 lead. Not much, but it’s usually been enough this season against the Nationals, who hadn’t won when trailing after six innings and opened the homestand with the worst on-base percentage in the majors.
Ryan Zimmerman led off the ninth with a double to right-center, barely beating the tag at second. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and tied the game when he came home on a single by LaRoche.
Ian Desmond doubled to left-center and Roger Bernadina was intentionally walked to load the bases with none out for Steve Lombardozzi. Parnell threw high heaters, trying for a popup or strikeout. Lombardozzi didn’t get much on the ball when he hit it, but it was a sacrifice fly down the left-field line and more than sufficient to score LaRoche.
“I got the out,” Parnell said. “Just in a bad spot in the field.”
Tyler Clippard (4-1) pitched the top of the ninth to get the victory, although Jordan Zimmermann did the hard work, allowing four hits and two unearned runs over eight innings.
The Nationals made six roster moves before the game, getting rid of two underperforming relievers and putting second baseman Danny Espinosa (batting average: .158) on the 15-day disabled list. Jayson Werth returned from the DL and started in right field, going 1 for 4 in his first game since May 2.
Until the ninth, the Nationals’ only run came on Desmond’s homer in the second, but they finally came through at the end against Parnell.
“Maybe this is something we were looking for,” Werth said. “Maybe this will get us going.”
NOTES: Quintanilla is hitting .500 (9 for 18) in five games since coming up from the minors after shortstop Ruben Tejada was placed on the DL. … Mets RHP Jeurys Familia will have surgery Wednesday to remove bone spurs and loose bodies in his right elbow. … With Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg dealing with a slight lat strain, Gio Gonzalez’s next start was moved up to Strasburg’s regular spot on Thursday. Gonzalez will pitch on normal rest because of a day off in the schedule. Strasburg will throw a bullpen session on Wednesday to see if he can start Saturday.