NEW YORK -- An error by left fielder Jerry Hairston Jr. proved costly as the Nationals lost to the Mets, 8-4, at Citi Field on Saturday night.
The Nationals were leading, 4-3, when the Mets scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny. After David Wright walked to lead off the frame, Carlos Beltran, who already had two homers in the game, hit the ball to deep left-center field.
Hairston had a bead on it, but as center fielder Rick Ankiel was running to be the backup, Hairston let the ball go past his glove for a two-base error to put runners on second and third with no outs.
Hairston thought Ankiel was running to catch the ball.
"I had a good jump on it," Hairston said. "I know Rick has some really good speed. It was just one of those things where I was really aggressive. At the last second, I felt something that he may go after it. Obviously, that wasn't the case. I just missed it. Flat out. I just put us behind the eight ball tonight."
After Scott Hairston struck out, Ike Davis tripled to right-center field to give the Mets a 5-4 lead. Reliever Brian Broderick replaced Gorzelanny. The move to bring in Broderick was surprising, because manager Jim Riggleman said that Broderick would not be in tight games during the foreseeable future.
The truth was Riggleman didn't have a choice but to use Broderick because the skipper was trying to rest four members of his bullpen -- Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Chad Gaudin, Todd Coffey --- because they have worked often in games.
But the Mets continued their rally as Davis scored on a single by Daniel Murphy to make it a two-run game.
In the eighth inning, the Mets added to their lead. Jose Reyes drove in two runs with a double off left-hander Doug Slaten. The two runs were charged to Broderick.
The error by Hairston and the relief pitching wasn't the only thing that hurt that Nationals. They went 1-for-9 with runners on scoring position. Their best chance to score more runs occurred in the third inning against left-hander Chris Capuano.
Washington had the bases loaded and nobody out, but Capuano managed to get out of the inning without further damage. Wilson Ramos struck out looking and Rick Ankiel popped up to shortstop Jose Reyes to end the inning.
"We had some opportunities early to add on to what little lead we had," Riggleman said. "Capuano made the necessary pitches to get out of the inning and shut us down. I don't point to any one thing that happened in the game."
Gorzelanny was better than what his final line indicated. Before the sixth inning, he allowed three runs on three hits and struck out seven batters.
"Gorzelanny did a good job," Riggleman said. "I was really encouraged by his outing. I thought he pitched smart."
All three runs came off the bat of Beltran, who hit a two-run homer in the first inning and a solo shot in the fourth.
"Today, when I came to the cage, I was working, trying to stay inside the ball," Beltran said. "I felt good, I felt my legs were working and good things happened. I had a good day, I was able to hit two homers. Every time you do something to help the team win, it's always a good feeling."
The Nationals thought the first homer by Beltran could have been avoided. They felt Beltran struck out on a 2-2 pitch, but home plate umpire Dan Bellino called it a ball. On the next pitch, Beltran hit the two-run homer.
"For me that was a strike," Ramos said about the pitch before Beltran's homer. "The umpire said he was 100 percent sure it was a ball. To me, it was a good pitch. It was a fastball in."
At least the Nationals were able to overcome the homers, as Danny Espinosa hit a three-run homer to give Washington a one-run lead in the top of the second.
After the Mets tied the game at 3 on the Beltran homer in the fourth, Washington reclaimed the lead an inning later, when Ian Desmond took a Capuano pitch and hit the ball over the left-field wall.
But the Nationals couldn't overcome the Hairston error.
"I really feel responsible for the loss," Hairston said "Nothing against the Mets. The Mets played well. I put us behind the eight ball. I feel responsible for the loss."
With the loss, the Nationals are 3-5 for the season.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.