Raul Valdes eclipses Yunesky Maya in matchup of Cuban starters

NEW YORK -- David Wright took one up and in from Tyler Clippard. So on the next pitch, the Mets star went up and out.

The All-Star third baseman launched a tiebreaking three-run homer in the seventh inning after the Nationals reliever brushed him back with a pitch. The reward: an extremely slow, satisfying trip around the bases.

Wright's 29th homer of the season powered a New York starting lineup of seven rookies past Washington 7-2 Saturday.

"It's not so much trying to admire it or show up a pitcher," Wright said. "It's letting them know, of course, you're not going to appreciate -- if you're going to pitch in, keep it down.

"Of course it's nice to let off some frustration," he added.

With the count 1-2, Clippard threw a pitch close to Wright's chin, sending him back off the plate. Wright stepped back in and hit a drive that just made the second deck, deep into the left-field stands. The slugger was hit in the head last year, and has been pitched tight all season -- Washington starter Yunesky May threw behind his back earlier in the game.

"I think some people think that's the way to get him out," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "He responded in the right way."

Wright's homer off Clippard (11-8) was the second long ball the reliever allowed in two games. On Friday night, Josh Thole homered in the 10th inning to give New York a 2-1 victory.

Raul Valdes outpitched Maya in the first matchup of Cuban starters in seven years, and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey made his first relief appearance in a season in which he has emerged as a key member of the Mets' rotation at 36 years old.

With speculation about his job security heating up the last couple of days as New York (79-82) stumbles to its second straight losing season, Manuel has relied on youngsters to fill an injury-plagued lineup for much of the season.

Manuel said Saturday that Jeff Wilpon, the Mets' chief operating officer, told him before Friday's game that there would be no discussions about his future until after the season ends Sunday.

The Mets became the first team to use a lineup of seven rookies since the Florida Marlins used seven on Aug. 23, 2006, according to STATS LLC. In the lineup that day: future All-Stars Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez.

Two New York rookies, second baseman Joaquin Arias and catcher Thole, combined to cut down a runner at home plate in the sixth inning to preserve the 2-1 lead.

In addition to joining Maya in becoming the first Cuban starters to face off since May 22, 2003, when Montreal's Livan Hernandez opposed Florida's Michael Tejera, according to STATS, Valdes earned another unusual distinction: The 32-year-old rookie became the first pitcher since Ismael Valdes in 1994 to start within three days of pitching in both games of a doubleheader, according to STATS.

"He competes. He can throw any pitch at any time," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said of Maya. "I hold out a lot of hope for him."

Valdes worked 1 2/3 innings, walking one and giving up a hit, in the first game against Milwaukee on Wednesday, then pitched a scoreless inning a few hours later in the nightcap.

Valdes gave up a homer to Mike Morse and a double to Wilson Ramos to start the sixth and left an out later.

Manuel then used six relievers, with Elmer Dessens giving up a tying RBI single to Ramos that hit off third base and shot straight up in the air to make it 2-all.

After Dessens walked pinch-hitter Adam Dunn to load the bases, Ryota Igarashi (1-1) struck out Justin Maxwell to end the threat.

Maya pitched five innings and gave up six hits and two runs. It was the rookie's best outing in five starts for the Nationals.

"I feel better and better from the first start to this one," Maya said through a translator. "I expect next year to be even better."

Clippard gave up a two-out single to Angel Pagan and walked Jesus Feliciano ahead of Wright, who struck out for the 161st time in his previous at-bat.

Dickey went 11-9 with a 2.86 ERA for the Mets, getting called up in May to fill in when Jonathon Niese was injured and Oliver Perez was dropped from the rotation. The exiled Perez has only pitched five times since coming off the DL July 21.

"I'll probably, [Sunday], use R.A. again just to come out for an ovation," Manuel said.

Dickey received an ovation from the modest crowd as soon as his name was called, and another as he strode off the mound after a scoreless inning.

Feliciano had a sacrifice fly in the third. Lucas Duda homered in the fourth for a 2-0 lead. Pinch-hitter Chris Carter hit a two-run shot in the eighth.

Game notes
Morse left with a tight left hamstring after homering in the sixth. He hopes to play Sunday. ... Wright has six homers in his last 11 starts. ... Nats 1B Dunn was not in the starting lineup for the day game after a night game because of a sore right hamstring. He has 38 homers.