- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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WASHINGTON -- It would have been simpler had Francisco Rodriguez waited another day for redemption, and had the New York Mets breezed through a series-splitting victory against the Washington Nationals.
Instead, despite building an eight-run lead after four innings, the closer's services were required Sunday afternoon. And a day after his self-proclaimed "freaking worst performance I've ever had in my entire life," K-Rod welcomed the opportunity to make things right.
Rodriguez, who suffered the blown save a night earlier when he allowed three ninth-inning runs, this time provided little drama while securing a 9-5 win.
After inheriting a pair of runners from Bobby Parnell, K-Rod retired slugger Adam Dunn on a fielder's choice groundout. Rodriguez then struck out Josh Willingham looking. K-Rod completed his 20th save in 24 chances when first baseman Ike Davis dove to his right to field Roger Bernadina's grounder and flipped to Rodriguez for the final out.
The Mets completed a taxing trip to San Juan to face the Florida Marlins and then to D.C. with a 3-4 record.
Sunday marked only the third time in K-Rod's past 17 appearances that no batter reached base against him.
"That's the best that can happen -- give me the opportunity the next day to go out there and shut the door, especially after the embarrassing performance I had yesterday," Rodriguez said. "I just wanted to go out there and redeem myself."
Dunn had nearly belted a grand slam in the ninth inning off Rodriguez on Saturday night, but a replay review affirmed it was instead a game-tying, two-run double that only briefly delayed the Mets' agonizing loss.
"A little revenge," Rodriguez said about Sunday's rematch with Dunn. "Yesterday, it was pretty obvious, was his day. He got a good pitch to hit, and you guys know the result. And today I got the opportunity to get back -- do a little a flashback and make sure not to repeat the same mistake I did the night before and make sure to wrap up that victory.
"I was a little more aggressive. I was attacking the strike zone quick. I was able to make the pitches earlier in the count. That's what I was looking for the night before. Everything today seemed to be a lot better. The command was there. The velocity was there."
Rodriguez suggested a quick mechanical adjustment factored into the improved showing. Bullpen coach Randy Niemann reminded K-Rod before he took the mound on Sunday to not drop his arm at all.
"We noticed in the video that I was lower. I was too low at the mound," Rodriguez said. "And today Nemo reminded me to stay a little bit taller and make sure I get on top of the ball -- make sure to release the ball in front and you're going to have better command. I followed the instruction and it worked out well."
Early on, it didn't seem as though the closer ultimately would be needed.
The Mets chased Nationals starter Craig Stammen during a three-run fourth inning while opening an 8-0 lead. On the day, Jason Bay contributed four RBIs, Davis belted a two-run homer and Angel Pagan also had two RBIs.
Things rarely are simple for the Mets, though.
Left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, coming off consecutive starts in which he allowed six runs apiece, allowed a three-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman. Takahashi eventually was pulled without recording an out in the sixth inning.
"These guys battle us right to the end every single game," Bay said of the Nationals. "It's the way it's been all year. It was hot out there. The game kind of had that lull to it. And, all of a sudden, boom, you get three runs. Now, 8-0 is kind of insurmountable. Five runs, all of a sudden, you're back in the game.
"We kind of held it together there, albeit not in a timely fashion," the left fielder continued, referring to the three-hour, 44-minute game time. "But we did. That's all the matters."
Called upon less than 24 hours after blown save, K-Rod locks down a victory.