WASHINGTON — After Yunel Escobar's swing on a 3-0 pitch resulted in a rally-killing double play, Nationals manager Matt Williams said his team can't change its aggressive approach.
If only they could alter how the Mets are playing.
Escobar's decision halted a seventh-inning rally at three runs, and Washington fell 6-5 to the San Diego Padres to lose more ground on NL East-leading New York.
"Yunel hit it good, he just hit it on the ground," Williams said. "I have confidence in all of our guys."
Escobar said through a translator he "just thought it was the right situation."
Justin Upton homered twice and had three RBIs, Matt Kemp added a two-run double and the San Diego Padres held on to even the three-game series. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 36th save.
Denard Span doubled twice for Washington in his second game back from the disabled list following back spasms. Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper each had two RBIs for the Nationals, who nearly overcame an early 5-0 deficit.
Instead, Washington trails a division leader by more than six games for the first time since late April. The Mets have won six straight.
"Just got to keep battling," said Harper, who drove in both his runs on a seventh-inning single. "Keep trying to win ball games. Keep having good at-bats, and just trying to do what we can."
Tyson Ross (9-9) allowed four runs in 6 1-3 innings for the Padres, good enough to defeat Gio Gonzalez (9-7), who failed to pitch more than five innings for a sixth time in seven starts.
Gonzalez allowed five runs — four earned — over 4 2-3 innings and now has a 10.22 ERA over his last three starts. Escobar's throwing error in the third led to Gonzalez's unearned other run.
Gonzalez allowed 10 baserunners.
"The team is going to put runners on base," the left-hander said. "You've still got to pitch, whether it's from the windup or the stretch."
Upton's first homer, a lined shot into the Padres' bullpen, brought in the final two runs of a four-run third. His second — a towering, opposite-field drive over the out-of-town scoreboard — made it 6-2 in the seventh.
In the bottom of that inning, Ross plunked pinch-hitter Clint Robinson before Span chased the hurler with his second double. Shawn Kelley then walked two batters to force in a run, and Harper's single to right-center off Marc Rzepczynski cut it to 6-5.
Escobar worked the count to 3-0 off Rzepczynski, then took a swing he might regret, but that his manager said he shouldn't.
"I can remember back to Jayson (Werth) hitting a 3-0 grand slam last year," Williams said. "I can remember a lot of success in those situations. So you have to take that with when it doesn't happen for you. But we can't change the way we play."
Tyson Ross' brother Joe Ross will take the mound for the Nationals in Thursday's finale.
"You know it's going to be fun to watch that game tomorrow," Tyson Ross said. "I hope my brother does well and I think he said it best when he said I hope he pitches well and we beat the bullpen."
OF Reed Johnson strained an oblique muscle while rehabbing from a calf injury that has kept him out most of the season, Williams said. ... INF Dan Uggla (back spasm) is unlikely to return from the disabled list until rosters expand "unless there's a need," Williams said.
Padres RHP Andrew Cashner (5-12, 4.03) looks for his first consecutive wins of the season against Ross (4-5, 3.56).