The score was tied at 2 in the top of the sixth inning when things started to unravel for Washington. Right-hander Tim Redding started the frame by giving up a single to Carlos Beltran.
Redding then left the game in favor of left-hander Ray King, and it went downhill from there. Ryan Church hit a squibber to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who grabbed the ball awkwardly and threw it over Nick Johnson's head at first base.
"I had a little Tiger Woods spin on it," Church said.
The ball went all the way to short right field, which allowed Beltran to score all the way from first and Church to trot to third.
"I'm surprised that I even caught the ball," Zimmerman said. "I tried to make a play and I threw it away. It was a tough ball to get to. It's a play I expect to make."
After Carlos Delgado popped up to Zimmerman, Angel Pagan hit a slow roller to King, who picked up the ball and made a poor throw to Johnson. The ball bounced past Johnson and Pagan was safe. Church ended up scoring easily on the play. Pagan then stole second and third before coming home on Brian Schneider's RBI groundout.
"You don't know if you want to be [angry] or upset," King said. "I felt like I made good pitches [and got slow rollers]. But when you boil right down to it, I didn't get the job done.
"It should have been a base hit, but it's an out. Tonight was two squibbers that cost us a ballgame. I'll take [the blame] for that."
Redding ended up pitching five-plus innings, giving up three runs on four hits. He drove in the Nats' only two runs in the fourth inning with a double off Mets left-hander Johan Santana to gave Washington a 2-1 lead.
However, Redding also had problems with the bottom of the order. In the top of the fifth inning, Redding walked both Schneider and Santana. Two batters later, the Mets had runners on second and third when Luis Castillo reached base on an infield single that allowed Schneider to score.
"I absolutely forgot how to throw a strike to two batters, especially the eighth-hole [hitter] and the pitcher's spot," Redding said. "You should be able to close your eyes and throw strikes. At this stage of the game, it's why 27 outs are important. When you get a little hiccup, it turns into something big.
"Against those guys and the type of pitcher against us, you have to play perfect baseball. It starts with the pitcher on the mound. It's a tough game to swallow, but I'll take the blame for that."
Redding had a feeling that Wednesday would be a long night, because he didn't feel right during his warmups. In fact, Nats manager Manny Acta said Redding had poor command of his fastball.
"Warming up, I didn't feel all that comfortable -- at least the way I had in my four starts," Redding said. "Over time, you are going to have a couple of games that you are really doing good. I tried to battle as much as I could for as long as I could. I kept us in the game for a while."
Santana pitched seven innings and gave up two runs on seven hits. He also struck out four and walked one. On Tuesday, the Nats faced Braves right-hander John Smoltz, who struck out 10 batters over seven innings. Nationals second baseman Felipe Lopez said that Santana wasn't as good as Smoltz.
"We just didn't do it," Lopez said. "He wasn't really nasty. He was just making his pitches. We swung at a lot of bad pitches."
Washington (6-16) has now lost 16 of its past 19 games.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.