Steve Lombardozzi caps Nationals' 9th-inning rally against Mets

WASHINGTON -- You'd think the Washington Nationals had never seen anything like it before, the way they mobbed Steve Lombardozzi in a hopping, hugging mass of humanity after his game-winning sacrifice fly.

Well, there's a good reason: They hadn't seen it before. At least not this season.

On a day in which they made six roster moves meant to help kick-start a playoff-projected team sitting below .500, the Nationals found an even better way to swing the tide their way. They won a game when trailing after six innings for the first time in 2013, getting a pair of runs in the ninth Tuesday night for a 3-2 victory over the New York Mets.

"Maybe this is something we were looking for," said Jayson Werth, who was among the first out of the dugout to engulf Lombardozzi. "Maybe this will get us going."

The Nationals had been hitting .191 from the seventh inning on, just one reason they're seven games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East. Before the game, they said goodbye to two struggling relievers and put resistant but struggling second baseman Danny Espinosa (batting average: .158) on the 15-day disabled list. At least Werth was back, returning from the DL and going 1 for 4 in his first game since May 2.

And, for eight innings, they were the stereotypical Nationals of this year. They couldn't hit Jeremy Hefner and allowed two unearned runs. A 2-1 deficit usually isn't crippling in baseball, but it might as well have been 12-1 the way Washington had been playing.

Then came the ninth.

Against closer Bobby Parnell (4-2), Ryan Zimmerman led off with a double to right-center, barely beating the tag at second. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and tied the game on Adam LaRoche's single.

Ian Desmond doubled and Roger Bernadina was intentionally walked to load the bases with none out for Lombardozzi. Parnell threw high heaters, trying for a popup or strikeout. Lombardozzi didn't get much of the ball, but his flyout down the left-field line was more than sufficient to score LaRoche.

Cue the big celebration.

"It capped a really terrible start to the day, you know," manager Davey Johnson said. "It's tough to send guys out of here, they're part of the family, and we didn't actually play that good until about the last part of the game. ... It was a great finish. It makes the day worthwhile."

Tyler Clippard (4-1) pitched the top of the ninth to get the victory, although Jordan Zimmermann did the hard work, allowing four hits and two unearned runs over eight innings.

The Mets' fourth straight loss spoiled a solid start by Hefner, who allowed one run and four hits over seven innings. Omar Quintanilla drove in both New York runs with a fourth-inning, two-out triple, getting the chance after the Nationals' slow reaction allowed a chopper by Jordany Valdespin to become an infield hit and a subsequent throwing error by first baseman LaRoche.

Until the ninth, the Nationals' only run came on Desmond's homer in the second.

They finally came through at the end against Parnell, who had converted his last seven save opportunities.

"I left a few balls over the middle that I didn't like," Parnell said. "But they're a good hitting team. It's a good part of the lineup, and I didn't walk them or anything like that. They hit some decent pitches, but I could've been better."

Game notes

Quintanilla is hitting .500 (9 for 18) in five games since coming up from the minors after shortstop Ruben Tejada was placed on the DL. ... The late rally kept Zimmermann from taking his first home loss in more than a year. His last defeat at Nationals Park came on May 17, 2012, vs. Pittsburgh. ... With Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg dealing with a slight lat strain, Gio Gonzalez's next start was moved up to Strasburg's regular spot on Thursday. Gonzalez will pitch on normal rest because of a day off in the schedule. Strasburg will throw a bullpen session on Wednesday to see if he can start Saturday. ... Mets RHP Jeurys Familia will have surgery Wednesday to remove bone spurs and loose bodies in his right elbow.