WASHINGTON — The gamble to give Wilmer Font another shot in this short-handed Mets rotation resembled a sucker’s bet almost from the start Wednesday night.
With Zack Wheeler on full rest for Thursday and Jacob deGrom behind him, manager Mickey Callaway could have deferred Font’s start to Friday against the anemic Marlins. Instead the journeyman right-hander drew a dangerous Nationals lineup, and got blasted.
And an offensive attack that had shown life in recent days went into hiding in a 5-1 loss at Nationals Park that snapped the Mets’ three-game winning streak.
It’s Wheeler who will be asked to deliver the series victory on Thursday, when he faces Anibal Sanchez. The Mets’ series in Miami is scheduled to open with deGrom on the mound.
Font was finished against the Nationals after 2 ¹/₃ ugly innings in which he allowed five earned runs on six hits with two walks. It was a rare letdown this month by a Mets pitcher — the team entered play with a 2.44 ERA in May, which ranked second in the major leagues.
The right-hander had earned a measure of trust after keeping the Mets afloat in his first appearance with the team, in San Diego last Wednesday when he allowed two runs over four innings in a no-decision. Font was acquired last week in a trade with the Rays, as the Mets try to fill a rotation slot with Steven Matz and Jason Vargas both sidelined by injuries.
Victor Robles’ homer leading off the third put the Mets in a 4-0 hole, and the Nationals weren’t finished teeing off against Font, who surrendered doubles to Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick for an additional run.
Rendon smashed an RBI double in the first, after Adam Eaton had walked leading off and Robles reached on an infield single. Juan Soto’s RBI ground out extended the Nationals’ lead to 2-0 before Kendrick delivered a run-scoring single.
J.D. Davis blasted a double off the left-field fence in the third against Patrick Corbin to give the Mets a run. But Jeff McNeil was forced to stop at third and never made it home.
The lefty Corbin struck out 11 batters over eight innings in which he allowed one run on four hits. It was Corbin’s third start against the Mets this season — he had also pitched effectively in the other two.