In the bottom of the inning, the Mets came back and tied the score off Washington starter John Lannan. Henry Blanco hit a sacrifice fly before Perez had an RBI single.
But the Nationals broke the tie in the top of the fourth. With the bases loaded, Taveras singled up the middle to drive in Adam Dunn and Ian Desmond.
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said that players like Tavares must start occasionally to remain sharp. "If we are going to ask Willy to help us," Riggleman said, "we have to get him a start now and then, and he took advantage of it.
"Willy is a .276 lifetime hitter in the big leagues. He is a good hitter, a great player, he's a great basestealer. Again, just a great pickup by [general manager] Mike [Rizzo]. We didn't know if he was going to make the club. He did and he drove in all the runs and had a great day for us."
For Taveras, it was sweet revenge. He let his bat do the talking. Three days ago, he was informed by Riggleman that he would not platoon with Harris, after all. The team preferred to start Mike Morse against left-handed pitching because of his powerful bat. Instead, Taveras would be a defensive replacement and get a start here and there.
Taveras acknowledged that he was not happy when Riggleman gave him the bad news, but Taveras took it like a professional. He went so far to say that Riggleman didn't have to tell him anything. Taveras, who has been an everyday center fielder most of his career, knew when he signed with Washington, there was a strong possibility he would be a reserve.
"Nothing will bother me," Taveras said. "I'm going to be a professional. This is the first time I've ever been a backup, but I have to understand the situation. For me, I came here to make the ballclub and to be in a platoon situation.
"The manager came up to me and told me Morse was going to play and not to worry. I told him, 'You didn't have to tell me that. I'm going to work hard. It's a long season. Whenever you call my name, I'm going to do my best for the ballclub and be ready.' I'm not mad. I don't need to be mad. I don't like trouble. I'm not a trouble maker. Anything I can do to help the ballclub. I'm very happy I have a job."
The Mets added another run off Lannan in the fifth inning when Fernando Tatis singled down the third-base line to drive in Jason Bay.
Overall, Lannan pitched five innings and gave up three runs on six hits. After Lannan left the game, right-hander Tyler Clippard took over and dominated, striking out seven batters in three innings. Clippard struck out the side in the seventh inning. He even collected his third career hit, two of them coming against the Mets.
"I felt good today. I was able to get ahead of guys," Clippard said. "All of my pitchers were working. I changed speeds on them well. I was able to throw their timing off and sneak a few fastballs by guys. That's what I need to do to be successful. I had everything working tonight."
Right-hander Matt Capps saved his second game of the season, but it wasn't easy. With two outs and the bases loaded, Rod Barajas swung at the first pitch and hit a line drive to left field. It looked like the ball was going to drop in for a base hit, but Harris saved the day with a sensational diving catch to end the game.
When the ball was hit, Harris made up his mind that he was going to dive.
"I said, 'Willie, you have to catch this ball. At least give it your best effort,'" Harris said. "If the ball falls in front of me, it was the game or at least tied and we have a play at the plate. It was pretty much a gamble. Fortunately, I came up with it and made the play."
It was Harris' third great catch against New York since joining the Nationals in 2008. That's not including the two great catches Harris made against them during Spring Training this year.
The Mets are used to Harris making great plays against them.
"He is so good, you have the feeling he is going to catch it," Barajas said.