Nats close season with 14-inning win over Mets

NEW YORK | Calling on Oliver Perez for the 14th inning was not one of the end-of-season tributes Jerry Manuel had in mind for his players in what was likely his final game as manager of the Mets.

Perez hit Adam Kennedy with a pitch before walking three batters in a row, and the Washington Nationals beat New York 2-1 Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep.

“I felt bad that we had to put in Ollie in a situation that we had no choice with. We had nothing left,” Manuel said. “That’s tough for me.”

It was a fitting end to a miserable season for Perez, who became a symbol of New York’s struggles in its second straight losing campaign (79-83). In the second season of a $36 million, three-year contract, he was banished to the bullpen in May and has pitched just four times since Aug. 1.

The left-hander entered to loud boos in the 14th. With one out, he plunked Kennedy in the shoulder. Kennedy stole second before Roger Bernadina and pinch-hitter Wil Nieves walked to load the bases. Justin Maxwell walked to force in the go-ahead run.

Perez (0-5) walked 42 in 46 1-3 innings this year.

Manuel did pull All-Stars David Wright and Jose Reyes in the ninth inning so they could receive ovations, and nudged Mike Pelfrey out of the dugout in the seventh for a curtain call.

“I’m very appreciative, first of all, that Jerry would even think about doing it especially what he’s been through the last couple of days,” Wright said. “At the end of the day it’s tough to really enjoy anything talking about we finished under .500 and don’t make the playoffs again.”

Speculation about Manuel’s job status increased this week while he was finishing up a 2½-year run as manager with a 204-213 record. Manuel’s contract is expiring and it is expected that the Mets will let him go. He still hasn’t spoken about his future with chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, the owner’s son.

“I hope soon,” Manuel said.

After moving a season-high 11 games over .500 on June 27, it was all downhill for New York. A 2-9 road trip following the All-Star break was too much to overcome and attendance dropped sharply. This season’s home attendance was 2,573,137, including 30,849 on Sunday. The team drew 3,154,262 in 2009, its first season at Citi Field.

“We struggled pretty much all year offensively. We had some opportunities but I think the one good thing we did do is establish some young players,” Manuel said, naming first baseman Ike Davis, pitcher Dillon Gee and catcher Josh Thole.

Joel Peralta (1-0) pitched two innings for the win and Miguel Batista got three outs for his second save, helping the Nationals end a string of 18 straight losses in one-run games on the road.

“It’s great. A win’s a win,” Peralta said. “To finish a season like that, it’s great.”

After going 81-81 in 2005, the Nationals’ first season in Washington, the former Montreal Expos completed their fifth straight losing season at 69-93 — after two 100-plus loss years — and lost rookie sensation Stephen Strasburg to major elbow surgery.

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