- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Not even the New York Mets’ stopper could bail out a suddenly stagnant offense.

Jonathon Niese lasted just four innings in his shortest outing since last June in the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday night.

“He certainly wasn’t in a great rhythm when the game started, I didn’t think,” manager Terry Collins said of Niese, who allowed all five runs, three earned. “We know Jon Niese (2-3) is a guy that, when things don’t go good, he’s one of those guys who will step up and put an end to it.”

The Mets snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak, their second longest of the season, with two runs in the fifth off Nationals starter Tanner Roark (3-1).

But Daniel Murphy missed a ninth-inning tying home run by inches, sending the Mets to their third straight loss and their ninth in a row against the Nationals.

“I thought it had a chance,” said Murphy, who instead watched as Jayson Werth made a leaping grab at the wall to preserve Rafael Soriano’s ninth save. “In my heart of hearts, I knew it was going to be close. He crowded me just a little bit. He got it on me just a hair.”

Niese allowed eight hits and two walks, and threw 84 pitches in his shortest outing since June 20, 2013 at Atlanta, when he left after 3 1-3 innings due to injury.

Tyler Moore had two hits and drove in a pair of runs, and Scott Hairston had an RBI double and a single for Washington, which scored three runs in the first and two in the third.

The Mets’ defense hurt Niese early as the first three Nationals hitters reached safely and scored. After Denard Span singled, third baseman David Wright misplayed Anthony Rendon’s grounder for an error.

Werth then singled home Span, and Washington added two more runs on a sacrifice fly by Wilson Ramos and a fielder’s choice grounder from Moore that might have been a double play. But the ball was bobbled briefly by second baseman Murphy.

“David misplays a ball, I misplay a double-play ball, so we kind of put him into trouble,” Murphy said of Niese. “I thought he settled down nicely after that.”

With two outs in the third, Hairston doubled home Ramos and scored on a single by Moore to make it 5-0.

“Bad pitch selection poorly executed,” said Niese, who saw Hairston send a 1-2 fastball into the left-center gap. “I wish I had that back, it would be different.”

Following consecutive shutout losses to the Yankees and four scoreless innings against Roark, the Mets finally broke through.

Lucas Duda opened the fifth with a single and went to third on Anthony Recker’s double off the wall. Duda scored on a groundout by Ruben Tejada and Eric Young’s double brought home Recker to pull New York within 5-2.

Then with two outs in the ninth, Juan Lagares and Young both walked, bringing up Murphy. He hit Soriano’s first-pitch fastball deep to right. Just not deep enough.

“I thought that was a homer when he hit it,” Collins said. “I thought it was farther than that. Obviously on the replay it was right next to the fence, still over the fence, but I thought he hit it better than that.”

The Mets finished 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

The game was delayed briefly when a fan came onto the field near the Nationals’ dugout and ran from first base around to home with one out in the ninth. He was tackled by a security person just behind home plate, drawing cheers from the crowd.

NOTES: Collins said he and David Wright discussed giving an off day to the third baseman, but that it wouldn’t come Saturday. Wright has one hit in his last 14 at-bats. … Mets RHP pitcher Jenrry Mejia, being eased into the closer’s role, was unavailable after pitching the ninth inning Thursday night. “He hasn’t been back to back in four years, so we’ve got to be careful,” Collins said, adding Mejia will pitch consecutive games soon. … New York’s Bartolo Colon (2-5, 5.84) opposes Gio Gonzalez (3-3, 3.97) on Saturday.

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