WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang continued to struggle as the Nationals were shut down by the Mets, 3-1, at Nationals Park on Thursday afternoon.
Although Wang allowed just two runs in 5 2/3 innings, the numbers are deceiving because he was in trouble in three of those innings. The Mets had the bases loaded in the second and third, but didn't score.
But the Mets got on the board in the fifth, on Lucas Duda's two-run homer off Wang.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson blamed Wang's problems on mechanical issues. Wang is having problems with his arm slot.
"I liked his arm strength and everything," Johnson said. "He's having a little problem, he gets to the side of the ball. He doesn't stay on top of it. Sometimes he gets out of the slot that he needs to be in. When he stays in that slot, his stuff is outstanding. It's just a consistency thing with him."
Wang acknowledged his mechanical issues and feels he needs to slow down on the mound.
"Obviously, the results were not good for the team and not good for me, so there are a lot of things I need to improve on and make adjustments," Wang said through an interpreter. "The biggest thing is, I [was behind on the count]. I need to get better. I need to throw more strikes and get the batters out."
New York starter R.A. Dickey proved to be too much for Washington. The knuckleballer lasted 7 1/3 innings without allowing a run on four hits and striking out eight. Dickey has not allowed a run in 24 2/3 innings.
Dickey has always thrown a hard and a slow knuckleball, but he recently started throwing a third variation that almost acts like a riser, which has helped him get a lot of strikeouts lately.
"I feel comfortable with where I am with the [knuckleball]." Dickey said. "There have been times in my career with the knuckleball, especially since I've been with the Mets, where I felt like I've been in a pretty good groove with it. But I haven't been able to do some things that I've wanted to do. Now recently, I feel like I have had some more weapons at my disposal. But it comes with a lot of hard work."
The only time the Nats caused any serious threat to Dickey occurred in the seventh. They had runners on first and second with one out, but Michael Morse hit into a force play at third and Ian Desmond hit into a double play to end the threat.
"He's got such a variety of knuckleballs," Johnson said. "I've seen some knuckleballers that will throw a hard knuckleball, but his is about as hard as I've ever seen. He has variations off it, it goes down to 67 mph when he wants to just float it up there. It's almost like a curveball. The one he uses mostly, and I think he has the best command of, is that hard knuckleball. It just kind of comes up there and wobbles. That's the one we had the most trouble with today."
The Mets added an insurance run in the seventh against reliever Tom Gorzelanny. David Wright scored on a single by Daniel Murphy.
The Nationals scored their only run in the ninth on Ryan Zimmerman's drive over the left-center field wall, his third home run of the season. Zimmerman is 5-for-13 (.385) in his last three games to raise his batting average to .245.
"I felt good the last few days," Zimmerman said. "It just one of those things. You are going to struggle a little bit. You have to keep working and battle through. There is a lot of season left."
Denied a sweep, the Nationals fell to 32-23.
"It's hard to win three games in a row with one team," Zimmerman said. "Like I said, it means we've won the series lot, too. If we sweep, it nice, but winning the series is the ultimate goal. If we continue to do that, then we'll be just fine."
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.