WASHINGTON - The sight was so stunning, so jarring, that for a moment Tuesay night, it almost seemed like a hallucination. In a season dominated by their arms, the Mets had staked their fate behind one of their weakest bats.
The gamble worked in a 7-2 win over the Nationals, one that positioned the Mets for a series victory against their division rivals.
In his first start since a dominant cameo at the All-Star Game, Jacob deGrom had thrown just 82 pitches through six innings and held the Nationals to a pair of runs.
But when his spot in the lineup came up in the seventh inning, with one out, runners on second and third, the Mets trailing 2-1, manager Terry Collins summoned pinch hitter Eric Campbell and his .174 average into the biggest spot of the game.
"So, we rolled the dice," Collins said after watching Campbell's two-run single over a drawn-in infield put the Mets ahead for good.
The Mets broke out in the ninth, tacking on four more runs behind consecutive run-scoring singles from Curtis Granderson, Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy and a Wilmer Flores groundout to add another.
"I think it's a good sign for us," Tejada said. "That's big. After a couple of times with runners in scoring position, to do the job for the team is good."
After going 4-for-72 with runners in scoring position in their previous nine games, the Mets went 5-for-15 Tuesday night. As a result, they enjoyed their best run output since scoring eight July 5.
The four-run barrier has been critical for the Mets, who have been in search of bats in the trade market to help supplement their dynamic pitching. They improved to 35-5 when scoring four runs or more.
"This is a huge win," said deGrom, who admitted he was amped up for the start. "Good team win. And we're looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow."
DeGrom (10-6, 2.18 ERA) allowed two runs and three hits in six innings. He struck out eight. In this critical three-game set against the division-leading Nats (50-42), the second-place Mets (49-45) needed a victory to cut their deficit to two games in the standings.
"It's a big win for us," said Collins, whose decision to pinch hit for deGrom proved crucial. "We've got to fight. We've got to catch these guys."
The move could have backfired, especially with veteran Michael Cuddyer available. But Collins said that despite his numbers, Campbell's swings have looked better of late.
"It's a great feeling, it's a great hit," said Campbell, who was robbed of hits twice the day before. "We obviously need to score more runs and hit better with runners in scoring position, so we did that today and we did a lot of it in the ninth inning, which is nice, too."
Notes & quotes: With little more than a week to go until the trade deadline, no moves are imminent. The Mets and A's have in the past discussed players in a potential Ben Zobrist trade, a source said, though there has been no movement from those talks of late . . . Catcher Travis d'Arnaud (sprained left elbow) has progressed to taking live batting practice and is in line to begin rehab games later in the week . . . Mets players and staff made their annual visit to Walter Reed Medical Center.