WASHINGTON -- Adam Dunn will settle for a critical hit during Washington's wild rally rather than a game-winning grand slam.
Ivan Rodriguez capped a three-run comeback in the ninth inning with an RBI single and the Nationals, who couldn't score for Stephen Strasburg, beat star closer Francisco Rodriguez and the New York Mets 6-5 on Saturday.
"The freakin' worst performance I ever had in my entire life," K-Rod said. "I should be ashamed of myself. So embarrassing."
Trying to protect a 5-3 lead and pitching for the fourth time in five days, Francisco Rodriguez (2-2) opened the ninth by walking Cristian Guzman. Willie Harris' one-out single and a walk to Ryan Zimmerman loaded the bases.
Dunn nearly hit a game-ending grand slam, but his drive to center just beyond the reach of Angel Pagan hit the top of the wall and caromed back onto the field.
"This ballpark is so weird in that area -- sometimes it goes and sometimes it doesn't," Dunn said. "You never really know when you hit it to center what it's going to do. ... I saw it hit and bounce up. I didn't know if there was anything back there or whatnot. I'm glad everything worked out."
It did, but just barely.
While Zimmerman was running and looking over his shoulder to make sure Pagan handled the ball cleanly, and Dunn was chugging into second wondering whether he had hit his 18th homer, some antics at third base almost short-circuited the comeback.
Guzman had retreated to third base to tag up and nearly collided with Harris, who was running full speed from second and had to do a neat shuffle-step to barely avoid passing his teammate, which would have resulted in the inning's second out.
Both runners scored on Dunn's double, one after the other as the relay throw came home, tying the game. Umpires went inside to look at the replay but upheld the call after a 2-minute review.
Mets manager Jerry Manuel tried unsuccessfully to convince the umps that Harris had passed Guzman.
Josh Willingham was intentionally walked and Ivan Rodriguez lined a 1-0 pitch into right field, scoring Zimmerman.
"It was a fastball down and away and I hit it over first base," Rodriguez said. "It's a pitch that sometimes you've got to gamble on. At the same time, I'm a low-ball hitter and I saw that pitch -- for me, great to hit."
But for Manuel, tough to stomach.
"Anytime you have a lead late, you got your guy out there, you kind of expect to win," said Manuel, whose team lost for the 10th time in an opponent's final at-bat.
After rounding first, Rodriguez was mobbed by teammates in the infield. The Nationals won for the first time in 40 games when trailing after eight innings, spoiling an excellent start by Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
"It shows what kind of team we are," Zimmerman said. "We've gone through some tough times, but we fight all the way to the end every game."
Strasburg battled early wildness, issuing three first-inning walks. He allowed two runs and four hits in five innings, striking out five.
"I'm probably trying to do too much, being a little too amped up. Once I relaxed a little bit ... I was able to command my pitches better," Strasburg said.
Washington has scored one run in the last 24 1/3 innings Strasburg has pitched, and none in his last 18 innings.
Matt Capps (2-3) escaped a jam in the ninth for the win.
The nationally televised game drew a sellout crowd of 39,214 to Nationals Park, though many exited after Strasburg was pulled. It was Washington's fourth sellout of the season, all but one coming when Strasburg has pitched.
Strasburg needed 37 pitches to get through the first inning, when the Mets took a 1-0 lead on Jason Bay's RBI double and had Washington reliever Miguel Batista warming in the bullpen. After walking seven hitters in his first five starts, Strasburg walked two of the first four he faced Saturday.
Josh Thole added a run-scoring single in the third.
Strasburg departed after throwing 96 pitches and Washington, limited to three hits in five innings, tied the game with two unearned runs in the sixth, including an RBI single by Ivan Rodriguez.
Dickey allowed two unearned runs in seven innings. ... Manuel said the Mets anticipate getting CF Carlos Beltran back immediately after the All-Star break. Beltran is on a minor league rehab assignment following offseason knee surgery. ... After falling behind five of his first seven hitters, Strasburg got first-pitch strikes on 13 of his final 15. ... Mets SS Jose Reyes (lower back tightness) missed a fourth straight game and was not permitted to participate in pregame hitting or fielding drills. Reyes said he didn't expect to play Sunday. ... The Nationals scratched RF Roger Bernadina (lower back tightness) from the starting lineup and replaced him with Harris.