WASHINGTON -- Adam LaRoche drove in four runs and Edwin Jackson tossed seven innings to help the Nationals defeat the Mets, 5-3, at Nationals Park on Wednesday night.
Prior to the game, LaRoche was in a serious slump. He saw his batting average go from .339 on May 16 to .267. He also was hitless in 13 at-bats during the current homestand, but he made up for it in one game. He gave Washington the lead in the first inning by hitting a three-run homer on the first pitch -- a curveball -- he saw from Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner.
LaRoche said he wasn't looking for the curveball.
"I've been getting myself in a bind at the plate by settling on some pitches lately, and not [being] ready to hit the offspeed [pitches], or not ready to hit the fastball," LaRoche said. "Honestly, I was looking for something to hit hard, not necessarily the curveball, just something up in the zone. He happened to hang it."
LaRoche acknowledged that he was frustrated while in his hitting slump.
"I've been through these before, and the most frustrating part is that you are not helping the team win games, whether it's leaving runners on base or not scoring runs," he said. "As far long term and at the end of the year, I know the numbers will be there, but you never want to go through a funk. Obviously, hits were hard to come by the last few weeks. So hopefully, this will start a little hot streak."
The Nationals needed Jackson to go deep into the ballgame, because manager Davey Johnson used his entire bullpen in a 7-6 victory in 12 innings the previous night. Jackson did just that, pitching seven innings, allowing three runs -- two earned -- on three hits, striking out six hitters and walking four.
"He threw the ball well tonight," Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy said. "He was throwing all his pitches for strikes, and he had his offspeed stuff. He was able to miss when he wanted to miss. He threw the ball well tonight. You tip your cap. He only gave up what, three hits?"
It was only Jackson's second win of the season, but it doesn't go unnoticed by Johnson that Jackson has been a solid pitcher for Washington.
"He's been outstanding," Johnson said about Jackson. "He and [Jordan Zimmermann] really haven't had a lot of run support. Jackson has just been exceptional at times. He had probably a little bit of a reputation coming in, that he threw a lot of pitches, he was a little bit wild. But of the starters, he's been as sharp as any of them. His walk total is way down, and his stuff is exceptional. He's come back when we really need it, like today. Seven strong innings is exceptional. We needed it bad."
Jackson said he had extra incentive to go deep in the game because of what the bullpen went through the previous day.
"As a starter, my mindset is to go as long as I can, but to have a game as we did last night, it's just that extra incentive to help those guys who have been helping us all year," Jackson said. "Any time you can give them a break as long as you can after a game like last night, it helps you in the long run."
New York made it a close game by the top of the fourth inning. In the third inning, Omar Quintanilla scored on a single by Kirk Nieuwenhuis. An inning later, Lucas Duda made it a 3-2 game when he grounded out, scoring David Wright on the play.
Washington added another run off Hefner in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Michael Morse singled to right field, scoring Ryan Zimmerman to make it a 4-2 game.
After New York scored its third run of the game on a Quintanilla groundout in the seventh inning, the Nationals scored their final run of the game in the bottom of the inning off reliever Tim Byrdak. LaRoche drove in his fourth run of the game on a sacrifice fly, scoring Steve Lombardozzi.
The Nationals have won three out of their last four games and improve their record to 32-22, and hold a two-game lead over the second-place Marlins in the National League East.
"These games are big," LaRoche said. "We find the division so tight right now. Regardless of who we play in this division, we have a chance to make up some ground. Not that other ones are not important, but these are nice when you can get on a roll against your division. You see yourself climbing the standings pretty quick."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an ML Blog, 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.