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Jacob deGrom struck out 10 but walked six and incurred his first loss of the season.

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This was how desperate the Mets were against the Nationals on Saturday: With his team trailing, 3-0, in the sixth inning and battling to avoid being no-hit by Washington starter Gio Gonzalez, Manager Terry Collins sent Jose Reyes to the plate.

This was the same Reyes who, despite his .462 career batting average against Gonzalez, Collins had chosen to bench for the game because of his horrific start to the season. Entering the game, Reyes had just six hits in his first 62 at-bats for a batting average of .097.

Before the 3-1 loss to the Nationals at Citi Field, Collins said he believed it was better for Reyes to do nothing — no batting practice on the field, no hitting in the cage, no anything — than to risk sinking further into his funk with another unsuccessful day at the plate.

But now, Collins needed someone to do something. And with Yoenis Cespedes still nursing a sore hamstring, Reyes was his only real option.

When Reyes, a 35-year-old third baseman, worked out a walk — the Mets’ first base runner since the third inning — it felt like a moral victory. And when Reyes got to second on a single by Juan Lagares and scored on another by Asdrubal Cabrera, it seemed as if the Mets were beginning a much-needed rally.

But Gonzalez settled down, and the Mets’ hopes were short-lived. He struck out Jay Bruce and Neil Walker to end the inning, and the Mets went quietly the rest of the way. Gonzalez and two relief pitchers retired the final 11 batters for the Mets, whose only two hits were those in Gonzalez’s somewhat shaky sixth.

The Nationals are poised to sweep the first series between the two favorites in the National League East. The loss dropped the Mets’ record to 8-10, their worst start since 2011, and the Nationals extended their division lead over the Mets to four and a half games.

Gonzalez has enjoyed success against the Mets in their home park — he entered the game with an 8-1 record and a 1.64 E.R.A. in 13 career starts at Citi Field — and he held them hitless for five innings, even after struggling through a 30-pitch first inning in which he walked two of the first four hitters.

But after getting Walker to fly out to end that threat, Gonzalez retired the next 13 batters before Reyes’s walk leading off the sixth.

Gonzalez’s dominant performance overshadowed an impressive, if puzzling, performance by Jacob deGrom. DeGrom was dominant through the first three innings, in which he struck out seven, although he surrendered a run in the third on two walks and a run-scoring single by Matt Wieters. The damage might have been worse had the former Met Daniel Murphy not tried to score from second on the hit. He was easily thrown out at home.

The Nationals added two more runs in the fifth on a double by Trea Turner and a single by Ryan Zimmerman, and deGrom left the game in the sixth with a final line that reflected his uneven outing.

For the second straight start, he hit double figures in strikeouts — he had 10 on Saturday after striking out 13 against the Marlins on April 15 — while allowing a career-high six walks. The loss was deGrom’s first of the season after he opened with three no-decisions.

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