(Reuters) - The Washington Nationals held on in a nervous finish to edge the New York Mets 4-3 on Wednesday and strengthen their hold on the National League East.
Washington entered the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead but final-inning home runs by David Wright and Jason Bay put the Mets in sight of an upset before closer Tyler Clippard steadied to make the final out.
"(Clippard's) had a lot of work lately," Washington manager Davey Johnson told reporters.
"But his velocity is still up there. A couple pretty good hitters looking for a fastball (cheated and) he got bushwhacked."
The win gave the Nationals (53-36) a 4 ½-game division lead over Atlanta, and an eight-game advantage on the struggling Mets (46-45) who have lost their last six straight.
The Nationals scored two runs apiece in the sixth and seventh innings, while Jordan Zimmerman tossed six scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 2.35 on the season.
"They have the best pitching in the league," said Mets manager Terry Collins, of the Nationals' starting rotation. "You've just got to continue to try to battle it out."
Chris Young pitched six solid innings for the Mets, allowing only a two-run home run to Adam LaRoche in the sixth, before Stephen Lombardozzi added a two-RBI double against New York's bullpen in the seventh.
Bryce Harper had a pair of hits for the home team while David Wright went 3-for-4 in the loss.
Washington played a fourth straight game without infielder Ian Desmond who is suffering from a stomach injury.