By MIKE FITZPATRICK
The Associated Press
NEW YORK— Daniel Murphy hit an early grand slam against his former team, Max Scherzer pitched eight fiery innings and the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-3 on Sunday night for their seventh straight victory.
Ryan Zimmerman added a two-run homer for the Nationals, who completed a three-game sweep of the short-handed Mets in the first series this season between the NL East rivals.
Missing slugger Yoenis Cespedes and two other injured starters, New York (8-11) has lost four in a row and eight of nine to fall 5 1/2 games behind the Nationals, who own the best record in the majors at 13-5. The winning streak is their longest since a seven-game run last April.
Scherzer (3-1) struck out nine and walked one in his latest win over the Mets, a team he has often dominated — especially since signing with Washington in January 2015. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, who fanned 17 in a no-hitter at Citi Field on Oct. 3, 2015, pumped his fist and slapped his glove after setting down the crucial hitters in this one.
Koda Glover got three outs for his second major league save, both in the past two days.
Michael Conforto hit his second leadoff homer of the series and had three hits for New York. Neil Walker’s two-run homer pulled the Mets to 4-3 in the third, but that was all Scherzer allowed. He got a double-play grounder after Conforto’s one-out single in the fifth and retired his final 10 batters.
Murphy connected in the first off Zack Wheeler (1-2), who had sharp stuff throughout his seven innings of four-hit ball. Zimmerman went deep in the eighth against reliever Josh Smoker to make it 6-3.
Murphy, booed by the Queens crowd, has eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 22 games against the Mets since they let him leave as a free agent before last season.
TRAINER’S ROOM Mets: SS Asdrubal Cabrera gave the banged-up Mets a scare when he came up gimpy after changing directions quickly to make a diving stop of Trea Turner’s infield single in the first. Cabrera, playing through a sore hamstring, vehemently tried to wave off manager Terry Collins and trainer Ray Ramirez as they came out of the dugout. Collins and Ramirez checked on Cabrera anyway, but he stayed in the game. … Collins said catcher Travis d’Arnaud (bruised right wrist) was in the original lineup until reporting pain when he tried to throw. He was replaced by Kevin Plawecki, but struck out as a pinch hitter in the eighth. … Collins said Cespedes (left hamstring) told him he felt a lot better, but it’s unclear when the slugger will be able to play. If he and d’Arnaud aren’t much closer to healthy by Tuesday, the Mets might need to consider putting them on the disabled list, Collins added.