Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/24/12

NEW YORK-Adam LaRoche's two-run homer-the third of five straight two-out hits off R.A. Dickey-broke a tie and started a four-run sixth inning for the Washington Nationals, and Gio Gonzalez allowed an unearned run on two hits over seven strong innings as the Nationals beat the reeling New York Mets 5-2 on Tuesday.

The Nationals' fourth straight win improved their National League-best record to 57-39 and assured they'd remain at least 41/2 games ahead of the second-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East. The Mets lost for the 10th time in 11 games since the All-Star Break and fell to 47-50 overall.

Dickey had allowed just three hits and one run until the Nationals got to him in a hurry in the sixth. Mike Morse singled before LaRoche's two-run homer deep into the right-field seats. Danny Espinosa and Roger Bernadina then singled before Jesus Flores' single to left scored Espinosa. Jason Bay's throw skipped past catcher Mike Nickeas, which allowed Bernadina to score as well and give the Nationals a 5-1 lead.

Dickey allowed five or fewer hits in 12 of his first 19 starts this season. He has a 5.36 ERA (24 earned runs in 40 1/3 innings) in seven appearances (six starts) since his back-to-back one-hitters, during which his overall ERA has risen from 2.00 to 2.97. In addition, the loss snapped an 11-game winning streak for Dickey (13-2).

The sixth-inning outburst was more than enough for Gonzalez, who dominated the Mets five days after he endured his worst start of the season (six runs in 3 1/3 innings) against the Mets in Washington. Gonzalez (13-5) walked two, struck out four and allowed just a second-inning single by Ronny Cedeno and a seventh-inning single by Ike Davis as he allowed one run or less for the seventh time in 20 starts.

Tyler Clippard recorded his 17th save with a perfect ninth. Ryan Zimmerman went 3-for-5 for the Nationals while Espinosa had two hits.

Jordany Valdespin laced his team-record fifth pinch-hit home run of the season for the Mets when he went deep off Ryan Mattheus leading off the eighth. Danny Heep (1983) and Mark Carreon (1989) previously had four pinch-hit homers in a single season for the Mets.

The Mets got on the board first by scoring an unearned run in the second inning, when Scott Hairston reached on an error, stole second and scored on Cedeno's single.

The Nationals tied the score in the fourth, when the red-hot Zimmerman doubled, went to third on an LaRoche groundout and scored on Espinosa's two-out double.

Zimmerman, who won the National League Player of the Week award last week, entered Tuesday hitting .400 (30-for-75) this month with 16 extra-base hits, including nine homers. Zimmerman has lifted his average from .234 to .272 during the scorching streak

The duel between All-Star pitchers Gonzalez and Dickey lived up to the billing early. Gonzalez allowed just one hit through the first five innings, while Dickey struck out the first two batters he faced on six pitches and had six strikeouts through five frames.

NOTES: Before the game, the Mets activated pitcher Matt Harvey and recalled pitcher Manny Acosta from Triple-A Buffalo. They optioned outfielder Lucas Duda and pitcher Pedro Beato to Buffalo. Duda is tied for third on the Mets in homers (12) and ranks fourth in RBIs (44), but he was mired in a 9-for-65 slump over his last 19 games and manager Terry Collins believed Duda's confidence was shaken. Collins said Duda, who played out of position in right field this season, will split time between first base and left field at Buffalo in hopes the familiarity helps him snap his slump. "See if that gets him to where he can concentrate more on his offense, because that's what's going to get him back here," Collins said. ... Collins said the Mets' recent struggles - they entered Tuesday 1-9 since the All-Star Break - meant the team couldn't be as patient with Duda as it was with first baseman Davis, who has remained in the bigs all season despite entering Tuesday with a .208 average and a .276 on-base percentage. Davis also acknowledged the bad timing of Duda's slump. "He's had a pretty good year so far," Davis said. "I'd take it." ... Harvey, one of the Mets' top prospects, is expected to make his major league debut against the Diamondbacks in Arizona in the opener of a four-game series Thursday. Harvey was 7-5 with a 3.68 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 110 innings at Buffalo. ... Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada sat out Tuesday's game with a swollen right ankle. Tejada was spiked by the Nationals' Bernadina as Bernadina tried to break up a double play in the 10th inning Monday night. ... Catcher Jesus Flores returned to the Nationals' starting lineup after missing two games with a sore back. ... Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he is content with his first-place club and doesn't think the Nationals need to make a big move as the trade deadline approaches. "It's interesting reading for me, but I don't look for us to be a buyer or a seller," Johnson said. "I like our bench, I like our bullpen. I don't see any need to make any changes." Johnson also said he is comfortable with pitchers Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan as potential replacements for ace Stephen Strasburg, who is on an innings limit in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.

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