NEW YORK (AP) — As Mets rookie Luis Guillorme stepped in to lead off the eighth inning, teammate J.D. Davis was in the clubhouse, studying video of Washington’s struggling bullpen. He had just queued up tape of Daniel Hudson — a hard-throwing righty warming in the bullpen — when he heard a roar from down the tunnel.
Hard to imagine a few weeks back, but this fervor in Flushing is making waves across the National League.
“We have all the confidence in the world right now with us,” Davis said. “But some things that we’re doing right now, we’re surprising ourselves.”
Guillorme picked a perfect time for his first big league homer — a tying shot to start the eighth — Davis added a go-ahead sacrifice fly a few batters later and New York worked its magic again, beating the Nationals 4-3 Saturday night for its season-best eighth straight victory.
The Mets have won 15 of 16 and are on their best roll since a 16-1 run in 1990. They pulled within a half-game of Washington for the first wild card and will try for a three-game sweep Sunday — just a month after having the second-worst record in the entire NL.
They did it by beating Washington’s bullpen for the second consecutive night.
Juan Soto put the Nats ahead 3-2 with his second home run of the game in the eighth inning, but Guillorme countered with a pinch-hit, no-doubter off Fernando Rodney in the bottom of the inning. Guillorme entered with a .192 average in 56 major league games, and sold-out Citi Field had already erupted before he realized the line drive would easily clear the fence.
“I think it took a split-second to know,” said Guillorme, who had the home run ball waiting in his locker. “I don’t hit many of those. It was a great feeling.”
Mets manager Mickey Callaway said a home run was “toward the end” of his list of potential outcomes for Guillorme in that spot.
“You just want a good at-bat, whether he makes him throw some pitches, bunt and get on, or single,” Callaway said. “But we’ll take the homer.”
After two more Mets reached against Rodney (0-5), manager Dave Martinez went to Hudson. The right-hander got one out, intentionally walked slugger Pete Alonso, and then Davis drove an 0-2 pitch to deep right field that brought in newcomer Joe Panik for the tiebreaking run.
Wilson Ramos, celebrating his 32nd birthday, followed with a two-out drive to right-center, but Victor Robles made a leaping catch against the wall to end the inning.
It was the second consecutive blown save for Washington’s bullpen and 22nd this season, tying the Mets for most in the majors. Closer Sean Doolittle allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 7-6 loss Friday night.
“We’ve got to come back tomorrow and will it,” Martinez said. “I told the boys, ‘Hey, we’ve got to will it tomorrow.'”
Soto hit a two-run drive in the first inning against Noah Syndergaard, and the 2-0 lead held until Davis and Ramos hit consecutive solo shots off Patrick Corbin in the fourth.
Soto struck again in the eighth against Seth Lugo (5-2), ending the reliever’s string of 14 consecutive scoreless appearances. Lugo got two outs to tie the Mets record with 26 consecutive batters retired before Soto hit a no-doubter to right field.
Soto has 24 homers this season, and the 20-year-old already has four career multihomer games.
“He’s feeling the energy,” Martinez said. “He’s very poised, he goes out there and he’s getting pitches to hit. He’s taking pitches that he should be taking. He’s doing really well.”
Lugo also pitched the ninth as All-Star closer Edwin Díaz warmed in the bullpen. Callaway said he wanted to ride the converted starting pitcher, figuring he’d be unavailable Sunday regardless. Díaz has had his struggles in the closer role this year, but Callaway said he would be New York’s go-to reliever if it faces a save situation Sunday.
Fans lined up outside Citi Field five hours before first pitch and many stood and clapped for lineup introductions as if it were opening day. The buzz died a bit after Soto’s first-inning homer, but Davis and Ramos got it rocking again in the fourth. The park had an October feel the rest of the night.
“I think it’s pretty reminiscent of what happened in 2015,” said Syndergaard, referencing New York’s run to the World Series, where it lost to Kansas City.
Aside from homers by Davis and Ramos, Corbin only allowed one other hit. He struck out eight over six innings.
Syndergaard, pitching to Ramos for the first time since June 15, threw seven innings of two-run ball with five strikeouts and seven hits allowed.
Quality control coach Luis Rojas presented New York’s lineup card to umpires during a seven-game winning streak from July 25 until Aug. 1. A game after the string ended, Callaway passed the responsibility to third base coach Gary DiSarcina and challenged him to do better. New York started this eight-game run that day.
“Call me superstitious, but I think it’s about who takes the card out,” Callaway said.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (mild strain in upper back) threw a 36-pitch bullpen at nearly full effort and came out feeling well. The club will evaluate him Sunday before laying out a next step, but manager Dave Martinez said Scherzer will likely throw at least one more bullpen before getting into a game.
Mets: OF Tim Tebow is expected to miss the rest of the minor league season due to a cut on his left hand. The 31-year-old hit .163 in 77 games during his first season with Triple-A Syracuse but hasn’t played since July 21 after injuring himself fielding a ball in the outfield.
Mets ace Jacob deGrom (7-7, 2.77) is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his past six starts. He’ll try to stay hot against National RHP Aníbal Sanchez (7-6, 3.67) in Sunday’s series finale.