NEW YORK -- Washington manager Jim Riggleman came into Monday night's matchup against the Mets with a rookie on the mound and his top two relievers in need of a rest.
In past years, that combination usually added up to big trouble. Not for these Nats.
Luis Atilano, on his 25th birthday, pitched admirably into the sixth inning, then a makeshift bullpen held on to give the Nationals a 3-2 victory over New York without closer Matt Capps or setup man Tyler Clippard available.
"He really did a nice job for us. We wanted to get everything we could out of him because we knew we didn't have Clippard and Capps at the other end," Riggleman said. "He gave us a chance and we got it."
Adam Kennedy and Ryan Zimmerman hit consecutive homers and Ivan Rodriguez had an RBI single in the seventh inning among his four hits for Washington, which came in tied with New York for second place in the NL East at 17-14. Kennedy homered to right and Zimmerman to left off John Maine (1-2) in the third.
Atilano (3-0) allowed five hits in 5 1/3 scoreless innings and got his first big league hit to help the Nationals improve to four games over .500 (18-14) for the first time since they were 77-73 on Sept. 19, 2005.
"What happened the last couple of years in Washington is already over," said Rodriguez, in his first year with the Nationals. "This is 2010. We have a team. We're focused now. We play the game now."
Rodriguez's run-scoring single off Pedro Feliciano in the seventh became the deciding run when Miguel Batista gave up a one-out solo homer to Angel Pagan in the ninth. Batista finished for his first save, striking out Jason Bay with a runner on to end it.
The Nationals used five relievers to finish without Clippard, who earned the win in the Nationals' previous three victories, or Capps, who leads the majors with 13 saves.
"There was nothing said down there. There was no rallying cry," Tyler Walker said about the Washington bullpen.
Jose Reyes became the second Mets player ejected for disputing a called third strike in two days. He was tossed by plate umpire Laz Diaz in the seventh after David Wright was booted in the ninth Sunday. New York manager Jerry Manuel was ejected for defending Reyes -- perhaps he was just expressing his frustration at another poor game at the plate for New York.
The Mets followed up 14 strikeouts Sunday with 11 more on Monday, going 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. They stranded 11 runners overall and lost their second game in a row.
"It's a team concern, no doubt about it," Manuel said. "We will do what we can to address the approach. When situations come, basically breath and enjoy."
New York made two big mistakes on the bases.
With a runner on second, Wright was doubled off first on Ike Davis' popup to third after getting his first hit in 10 at-bats (nine strikeouts). In the seventh, Jeff Francoeur broke from third on Pagan's chopper to the mound and was caught in a rundown. Luis Castillo followed with an RBI single off Doug Slaten, called up from Triple-A on Sunday, that pulled the Mets to 2-1.
Atilano was coming off the worst outing of his young career -- four starts. He admittedly was anxious when he gave up six runs Wednesday to the team that traded him after he had Tommy John surgery in 2006, the Atlanta Braves.
He had no such problems against the slumping Mets, though. Atilano got five of his first six outs by strikeout on Monday.
Two of them came after he loaded the bases on a single and two walks in the first. First, Wright struck out for his seventh straight at-bat for out No. 2. Then, Davis fanned to end the inning.
"I don't know how. I'm not a strikeout kind of guy," said Atilano, whose previous high for strikeouts was four. "But I'll take it."
Atilano did not let a runner reach third after the first.
Maine gave up two runs and six hits in six innings. He walked four and struck out five.
After the game, the Mets designated reserve OF Frank Catalanotto for assignment and recalled OF Chris Carter from Triple-A Buffalo. ... Nationals LHP John Lannan (left elbow discomfort) threw a bullpen session and is expected to make his next scheduled start Thursday. ... Mets C Henry Blanco was placed on the bereavement list so he can be with his ailing mother in Venezuela. The team recalled C Josh Thole from Buffalo to take his place.