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Unheralded starter John Maine has been a pleasant surprise for the New York Mets . Maine looks to extend the longest scoreless streak by a Mets pitcher in four years when New York continues its three-game series with the Washington Nationals Saturday at RFK Stadium. Maine (2-3, 2.08 ERA) gave up just three hits in six scoreless innings of Sunday's 8-1 win over Philadelphia, extending his scoreless streak to 23 innings. The run began with an inning of relief against the Chicago Cubs on July 15 and has spanned three starts. ''It's more of a confidence thing,'' said Maine, who made his first start in 11 days on Sunday. ''Now I know I can pitch out there.'' Maine's scoreless streak is the longest by a Mets pitcher since Mark Guthrie 's 27 innings in 2002 and the longest by a Mets starter since Al Leiter 's 25 innings in 1998. He could have gone longer on Sunday, but had been battling flu-like symptoms the previous few days. ''I'm not even thinking about it,'' Maine said of his streak. ''It's nice not to give up a run. But I've got a chance to win a job here and help a team get into the postseason. That's what I think about after I'm done.'' Saturday's start will be Maine's seventh of the season. He made his only career start against the Nationals on May 2, allowing four runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-2 loss. The Mets (69-45) lost 2-1 to the Nationals (51-64) in Friday's series opener, ending a five-game winning streak. Paul Lo Duca - who has been hounded by reports of marital infidelity and gambling debts - hit his first homer since May 13, but starter Tom Glavine was outdueled by Washington's Billy Traber . Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran returned to the lineup after sitting out a game to rest his sore right knee. Despite the loss, New York still owns a 13-game lead in the NL East. The Nationals won for the fifth time in 13 games Friday and for just the second time in 35 games in which they scored fewer than three runs. Brian Schneider doubled in both of Washington's runs to give him three RBIs in the last two games after driving in two in the previous 19. Jason Bergmann (0-0, 8.14) was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans on Friday and will start Saturday for Washington. He has made 17 relief appearances in three previous stints for the Nationals this season, but has been working as part of the rotation in New Orleans, going 3-1 with a 3.63 ERA in four starts. ''It's another option for me. Every time you give yourself another option, you improve your chances of staying,'' he said. ''Either way, I'm ready to relieve, I'm ready to start - whatever they want me to do.'' Bergmann has made four career relief appearances against the Mets, including one this season, going 1-0 and throwing 3 1-3 scoreless innings.
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