WASHINGTON -- Two weeks ago, the New York Mets suffered what would be the first of seven straight losses. After losing to Houston on April 20, their skid had become nine setbacks in 10 games. Nerves were frayed, jaws were clenched, and breaks were not going their way.
Now seven days later, the Mets are winners of five straight. What a difference a week can make.
Josh Thole drove in three runs, including a key two-run double in the sixth, and the bullpen closed the door with 4 1/3 strong innings in the Mets' 6-4 win over the Nationals on Tuesday night.
"A couple of weeks ago, everybody was trying so hard," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I guess you could use the phrase, 'They were pressing a little bit.'
"It's amazing how all of a sudden, things just start turning your way."
Though they are still bringing up the rear in the National League East, the Mets (10-13) won their fifth straight game to establish their longest winning streak since racking up eight straight June 10-17, 2010.
Starter Chris Young, making his first start since coming off the disabled list, gave up three home runs in 4 2/3 innings. Relievers Ryota Igarashi, Taylor Buchholz, Jason Isringhausen and Francisco Rodriguez did the rest, holding the Nationals to one run. Igarashi improved to 1-0, while Rodriguez pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
"The whole bullpen did a good job, they really did," Collins said. "They picked us up."
The Mets' offense has surged during their streak, which coincided with the return of left fielder Jason Bay to the lineup. They jumped on Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann (1-4) with two runs in the second inning and one in the third. With a 3-1 lead in the fourth, Young allowed towering home runs to Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos, who had also taken the Mets starter deep in the second.
Opening a six-game road trip against divisional foes, Bay started the decisive sixth-inning rally with a one-out single to right. The scorching Ike Davis, who had three hits, followed suit. The Nationals turned to the bullpen, bringing in lefty Doug Slaten to face the left-handed bat of Thole.
Collins, who said his young catcher has "overachieved his whole career," talked with Thole pregame. The message was simple: Play your own game. And one of the few bats that had yet to emerge in the Mets' suddenly potent lineup suddenly did.
Thole went the opposite way on an 0-1 slider, slicing a fly ball past the outstretched Michael Morse, scoring Bay and Davis.
"I think [Thole's] starting to get confident in his play," Collins said. "He comes up with big hits, and that's what his career has been about."
Thole admitted that he's been waiting for a moment like that to get untracked.
"I needed it bad," Thole, who entered the game batting .226 with four RBIs, said of his clutch hit.
"For myself, just picking up the RBI in the [second] inning was a little bit of a confidence booster for myself," Thole said. "To be able to get the big hit and for Terry to stay with me was huge."
Thole's groundout to shortstop in the second inning scored Bay with the Mets' first run, and Young's safety squeeze two batters later brought home Davis for a 2-0 lead. Carlos Beltran's RBI double in the third inning created a 3-1 lead at the time.
The Nationals (10-12) scored one in the eighth when Ramos' third hit, a two-out single to left, brought home Rick Ankiel. The Mets got the run back on an RBI groundout from David Wright in the top of the ninth.
Young, who missed time with right biceps tendinitis, was impressive early, getting the first three batters he faced to hit infield popups and the fourth to fly meekly to left. That stretch of quality pitches ended abruptly when Ramos clobbered a fastball over the left-center-field wall to cut the Mets' lead to 2-1.
Young wiggled out of trouble in the third when he struck out two with a runner on third base and one out. However, the Nationals' long balls in the fourth -- also coming on fastballs -- tied the game. Young left in the fifth with runners on second and third and two outs, having thrown 88 pitches in his return.
"I would have liked to have gotten another [inning] out of him," Collins said. "Hopefully he comes out of this tomorrow and feels good, and we get him out there in four more days."
Igarashi struck out Werth to end the threat in the fifth inning and claim the victory.
"[My] shoulder felt good, felt really good," Young said. "It wasn't as pretty as I'd like, but we won the game. That's the bottom line."
On the other side, Zimmermann continued the Nationals' streak of every starting pitcher this year lasting at least five innings. That simply wasn't enough against the suddenly deep Mets lineup.
"He pitched a winnable game tonight," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said of his young starter. "He wasn't at the top of his game. He's facing a hot ballclub there. They came in here hot, and they're still hot."
Ben Standig is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.