Nats' offense comes up short as El Duque, Mets cruise

Turning point: Ruben Gotay hit an RBI single in the seventh inning that gave the Mets a 2-1 lead, and Carlos Delgado grounded an RBI single into right field to tack on an extra run.

Hero: Hernandez has won three straight decisions.

Figure this: The day-night doubleheader was only the second at Shea Stadium. The Mets and Dodgers split the first one on May 11, 1972.

Quotable: "Once you face [Hernandez] you know what to expect but when he's getting ahead in the count like he was today it's still real tough." -- Ryan Zimmerman

-- ESPN.com news services

Mets 3, Nationals 1

NEW YORK (AP) -- Orlando Hernandez knew the New York Mets were headed for a long day, so he did his best to get his teammates off the field in a hurry.

Hernandez tossed seven crisp innings and the Mets beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 on Saturday in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.

"Not many guys can do what he does, throwing his breaking ball for strikes as consistently as he does," New York manager Willie Randolph said. "He never surprises me."

Ruben Gotay's RBI single in the seventh inning gave the Mets a 2-1 lead and made a winner out of Hernandez (7-4), who has won three straight decisions. New York has won 11 of El Duque's 17 starts this season.

"I feel good, I'm happy," Hernandez said. "My team lost yesterday [and] I helped a little bit today."

David Wright walked after Gotay's hit, and Carlos Delgado grounded an RBI single into right field against Saul Rivera (4-3) to make it 3-1.

Aaron Heilman worked a perfect eighth for the Mets and Billy Wagner got three outs to finish off the three-hitter and earn his 24th save. It also was save No. 348, moving him past Randy Myers for seventh on the career list.

Felipe Lopez homered and Tim Redding kept Washington in the game with six sharp innings. D'Angelo Jimenez also had two hits.

Hernandez cruised through the punchless Nationals, who were last in the majors in runs, home runs and RBIs entering the game. He struck out eight, walked two and allowed just three hits.

"When I have my curveball, my slider, it's very good," he said, "and my control was very good for me."

Jimenez's bloop single to center in the first was Washington's only hit until Lopez homered with one out in the sixth to tie it at 1. El Duque struck out four straight batters before Lopez drove a 1-1 pitch out to right for his sixth of the season.

Jimenez followed Lopez with a single to left but Hernandez got Ryan Zimmerman to foul out and retired Dmitri Young on a fly ball to left to end the inning.

"He comes at you in a lot of directions," Zimmerman said. "Once you face him you know what to expect but when he's getting ahead in the count like he was today it's still real tough."

El Duque retired the last five batters he faced and threw 62 strikes in his 99 pitches. He is 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his last six starts at Shea Stadium.

"He's got about 10 pitches from four different arm angles," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "You know we just couldn't do anything with him."

The Mets broke through in the fourth against Redding, who retired 10 of the first 12 batters he faced. Delgado walked with one out and went to third on Ramon Castro's single to center.

Redding got Marlon Anderson to hit a fly ball to right that wasn't deep enough to score Delgado, but Lastings Milledge lined a double off the left-field wall to make it 1-0.

"I made I thought only one bad pitch to Milledge and he was able to drive in a run there early in the game," said Redding, who equaled a career high with eight strikeouts. "I was able to throw both the curveball and slider for strikes and keep them off the fastball."

Milledge started in center field for fourth straight game with Carlos Beltran out because of a stomach muscle strain. Randolph said he isn't sure when the All-Star will be able to return.

Game notes
New York optioned infielder Anderson Hernandez to Triple-A New Orleans after the game and recalled right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who is scheduled to start the second game. Right-hander Joel Hanrahan is expected make his major league debut for the Nationals. ... The day-night doubleheader was the second at Shea Stadium. The Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers split the first one, on May 11, 1972. ... Redding also had eight strikeouts on May 18, 2002, for Houston against Pittsburgh.