NEW YORK -- Left-hander Tommy Milone had a solid outing as the Nationals defeated the Mets, 10-1, at Citi Field on Thursday afternoon and swept the four-game series. Washington's last four-game sweep was in 2009 against the Braves.
Milone, who won his first Major League game, pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits despite having to deal with a 40-minute rain delay in the second inning. The only time he was in trouble was in the first. He allowed a leadoff double to Ruben Tejada and a walk to Justin Turner. However Milone managed to get out of the inning, inducing David Wright to hit into a double play and striking out Jason Bay.
"I knew if I made some good pitches [on Wright], he was going to hit a fly ball or a ground ball. Luckily, he hit a ground ball," Milone said.
In the sixth, Milone was able to get two quick outs before allowing a single to Wright. Manager Davey Johnson decided to take Milone out for right-hander Collin Balester, who allowed an RBI double to Bay. The run was charged to Milone.
"Tommy was magnificent. I was only worried about the 40-minute delay he had in there," Johnson said. "Also, I wasn't going to let the winning run get on [in the sixth inning]. Unfortunately, we didn't stop his run from scoring, but he was outstanding. It was a wonderful win for him and a fitting end to this road trip.
"I think he had everything working for him. He had them all messed up. They were talking to themselves. He jammed a lot of guys, who missed by a mile. It was a really fun game to watch. He was totally in command."
A happy Milone received three game balls, a small blue lineup card and a shaving cream pie in the face.
"I'm glad to have [the win] under my belt now," Milone said. "Obviously, what you want to do is win games. But what you want to do is keep the team in the ballgame. We got a win out of it."
It marked the second time Milone faced the Mets. The last time he faced them was Sept. 3. That day, he made his Major League debut and hit his first big league home run. In that game, Milone lasted 4 1/3 innings and allowed four runs. What was the difference between the starts? Milone was able to keep is pitches down in the zone.
"I just stayed low in the zone with offspeed pitches -- with really everything," He said. "I was able to stay low. ... An aggressive team like this, they are going to be swinging. As long as I can stay low, get some swings and misses ... luckily I did that today."
Washington was able to give Milone support in the fifth against Mets rookie right-hander Chris Schwinden. With runners on first and third and one out, Rick Ankiel hit a slow roller to first baseman Valentino Pascucci, who tried to tag Ankiel, but the ball dropped out of his glove for a two-base error, allowing Wilson Ramos to score. Ian Desmond then scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Zimmerman.
The Nats added eight more runs in the late innings. In the seventh, Steve Lombardozzi scored on a balk by reliever Daniel Herrera. An inning later, Washington added three more runs off right-hander Ryan Beato. Desmond, Jonny Gomes and Zimmerman picked up RBIs.
Desmond highlighted a four-run ninth with a two-run double. He went 5-for-6, raising his batting average to .251. Not bad considering he was hitting .223 at the All-Star break. Hitting advice from Johnson proved to be the difference.
"He knows what he needs to do and he is doing it and he is fun to watch. He is a definite threat, just being the kind of player that I know that he can be," Johnson said.
Said Desmond: "Everybody has been able to give me good advice. I've been able to take the things that are successful and disregard the things aren't and go from there."
The Nats, who are in sole possession of third place in the National League East, have won five in a row to improve to 71-77. Third place is a vast improvement, but to the club, it's not that big of a deal. The bottom line is that the Nationals want to finish in first place.
"We are looking for next year. We could set a precedent for next year to come in, to battle and to win. That's the bottom line. It's all about winning," reliever Todd Coffey said. "Our season is going to be a failure no matter what because we didn't win, we didn't go to the playoffs. It's true about [almost] every single team. Twenty-nine teams are going to fail this year because they didn't win the World Series. The bottom line is to win the World Series."
Mets manager Terry Collins would like to see his club finish ahead of the Nats in the division.
[The Nationals] are playing for the exact same thing we are, and that's pride," Collins said. "That's a place in the standings that when you walk away you'll be proud. They're playing for exactly the same things. So yes, I've been proud of the way this team has played all year long, but we're not done. We've got two weeks to go. And if we're going to fold it up, that tells me something. That tells me a lot about how it's going to be when it comes crunch time next year, when we are fighting for something."
It obvious the Nationals are going beyond playing for pride.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.