The Washington Nationals fell behind for good in the ninth last night when the New York Mets rallied for four runs in a 6-3 victory. The Nationals, however, could have trailed even sooner had it not been for a disputed call at third base one inning earlier.

The play in question began to develop after Jose Reyes, the Mets’ speedy shortstop, drove a ball to the wall in left-center and was trying to stretch a double into a triple. Nationals center fielder Rick Ankiel retrieved the ball and fired to third baseman Jerry Hairston as Reyes slid headfirst.

Hairston kept his glove on Reyes in front of third base umpire Marvin Hudson, who called Reyes out. Television replays appeared to show Reyes’s hand on the base throughout his slide, but Hairston said afterward in the clubhouse that Reyes may have gotten loose from the bag for a split second.

“Unbelievable throw by Rick,” Hairston said. “If you’re in the same area code, you’ve got a shot with his arm. But I knew Jose can really run, and sometimes you can slide past the bag, and I just wanted to make sure to hold the tag.”

Reyes immediately protested the call to Hudson, and third base coach Chip Hale had to restrain the emotionally charged player. Mets Manager Terry Collins left the dugout to argue the call as well.

Daniel Murphy, meantime, was waiting to hit as the heated discussion between Collins and Hudson continued. All the while, Reyes was still trying to get in some choice words for Hudson, but Hale made sure he didn’t get any closer.

The call proved at the time proved especially costly for New York because Murphy clubbed reliever Tyler Clippard’s 3-2 change-up into the Nationals bullpen in right field to tie the game at 2. It was the first earned run of the season for Clippard, who blew his third save.

“I couldn’t tell,” Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman said of the play. “We had one go the other way for us earlier this year. We slid, and somebody held the tag long enough, foot came off, and they called him out. I just assumed that [Reyes’s] foot came off a little, and Jerry had the presence of mind to keep the tag on him.”