Nats stay in wild-card hunt with late rally

NEW YORK (AP) -- Preston Wilson laughed as the rookies on the Washington Nationals, enduring one of baseball's traditional hazing rituals, donned women's dresses before leaving Shea Stadium.

The Nationals know they aren't always baseball's prettiest team, and the sight of grown men in miniskirts, halter tops and humiliating hemlines helped drive that point home.

Still, there's nothing unsightly about the way Washington has fashioned itself into a playoff contender.

Vinny Castilla drove in the go-ahead run with two outs in the 10th inning after Braden Looper and the Mets' sloppy defense blew a ninth-inning lead, and the Nationals beat New York 6-5 on Thursday to complete a three-game sweep.

"People outside of here don't think we can do it," Castilla said. "We're still here."

The Nationals swept a road series for the second time in a month. They open a three-game set at NL West leader San Diego on Friday.

The Nationals have played 57 one-run games, the most in the majors, and this was only the second time since the All-Star break they've put together a winning streak of longer than two games.

"This might be the one we needed to put us over the top before this thing is over," manager Frank Robinson said.

Cliff Floyd hit a grand slam and Jose Reyes also homered for the Mets, who have lost 15 of 18.

New York fought back from a three-run deficit to take the lead but then wasted strong relief work from Shingo Takatsu and Aaron Heilman to fall to 2-12 in September.

"We can't feel pity for ourselves, cause the opponents don't," losing pitcher Roberto Hernandez said. "We're trying to beat them and they're trying to beat us."

Hernandez (6-6) walked Nick Johnson to open the 10th, Wilson followed with his fourth hit of the game to move Johnson to third and Castilla singled to right with two outs.

"That's what it's all about this time of year," Wilson said. "You just have to outlast everybody. Everybody's tired, everybody's team is beat up and banged up, and you've just got to outlast them. Today we did pretty good at doing that."

Jason Bergmann (2-0) pitched one inning and Gary Majewski worked the 11th for his first save.

Floyd's grand slam in the fifth gave New York a 5-4 lead. Takatsu and Heilman combined for six strikeouts over the next three innings before the Nationals tied it in the ninth against Looper, who has blown saves seven times in 35 chances.

Pinch-hitter Ryan Zimmerman singled to right, taking second when the ball got past Gerald Williams for an error. Pinch-runner Kenny Kelly went to third on a groundout before Looper hit pinch-hitter Jose Guillen with a pitch. With the infield in, second baseman Kaz Matsui let Brad Wilkerson's grounder go under his glove for another error, tying the game. Looper kept it tied by getting Jamey Carroll
to bounce into a double play with runners at the corners.

Miguel Cairo made his second career start in right field, and the Nationals seemed to be aiming for him in the first. After Wilkerson's leadoff single to center, the rest of the balls put in
play in the inning all went to right.

Carroll's slicing hit fell in front of a diving Cairo for a double, and after Johnson struck out, Wilson dropped in a bloop single to score two runs. Ryan Church's single put runners on the corners and Castilla's sacrifice fly made it 3-0.

Reyes led off the bottom half with his seventh homer of the season, but light-hitting Cristian Guzman answered with his fourth off Jae Seo to open the next inning.

Consecutive one-out singles by pinch-hitter Mike Jacobs, Reyes and Matsui off Livan Hernandez loaded the bases in the fifth. Carlos Beltran popped out, but Floyd lined a 3-2 pitch over the right-field fence for his fifth career grand slam and a 5-4 lead.

"The home run doesn't mean jack," Floyd said. "You still have to come back and play and make the plays when they have men in scoring position."

Game notes
Washington also swept a series at Colorado from Aug. 12-14. ... Guillen didn't start, one night after his equipment-tossing tirade following his ejection for cursing from the dugout after striking out. Robinson said Guillen had tweaked his hamstring and didn't want to take a chance of playing him in the wet outfield. ... Cairo's only other start in right field was on Aug. 2, 2003, for St. Louis, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Nationals reliever Joey Eischen threw a pitch over catcher Gary Bennett's
head while intentionally walking David Wright in the seventh.