5. Scherzer takes New York: Max Scherzer injured his right thumb swinging the bat during his last start, against the St. Louis Cardinals back on April 23rd, and was held out of his planned outing this past Tuesday in Atlanta.
On the mound in the outing against St. Louis, the 30-year-old right-hander held the Cards to two runs on six hits in seven innings of work before he left the game with his thumb an issue and his spot in the lineup coming up.
He told reporters after the game that he was happy with some aspects of the start in what ended up a 4-1 Nats' loss.
"I'm attacking the zone," Scherzer said, "... pounding the zone, and again another outing with no walks, so that's always a plus. Any time you can keep away from the free passes, it's just that much harder to have a big inning against you. So when you start evaluating what you do with that, those are the succcesses."
Scherzer walked two batters in each of his first two starts with the Nationals after signing a 7-year/$210M deal this winter, one of them his Opening Day outing against the same New York Mets he was facing tonight.
In that start against the Nationals' NL East rivals, Scherzer took a no-hit bid into the sixth and ended up going 7 ⅔ IP over which he allowed just four hits, the two walks and three unearned runs.
The start against the Cardinals left the veteran of seven-plus major league campaigns (1-2) on the year with a 1.26 ERA, a 1.69 FIP, four walks (1.26 BB/9) and 29 Ks (9.10 K/9) in 28 ⅔ IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a .185/.221/.231 line.
Tonight's start was his fifth against the Mets in his career and his third in Citi Field, where he was (1-0) with a 3.60 ERA and a .237/.333/.316 line against before taking the mound.
Scherzer's return to the rotation began with a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 first in which he got three fly ball outs from the Mets. He recorded two Ks in a quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 second that left him at 21 total after two.
Wilmer Flores just swung and missed at three straight Max Scherzer pitches. Fastball. Slider. Fastball. Good night.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) May 1, 2015
Mets' second baseman Dilson Herrera took a 1-2 fastball off the elbow in his first at bat of the year in the majors. Kevin Plawecki sent Michael Taylor sprinting back with a well-struck fly to center that the Nats' outfielder tracked down. Matt Harvey bunted Herrera over/gave up an out, and Curtis Granderson walked with two down, but Juan Lagares went down swinging over a filthy 1-2 bender to end a 19-pitch third. 40 total for Scherzer after three.
Michael Cuddyer got hold of an 0-1 fastball in his one-out at bat in the fourth, and hit it out to center over the GEICO sign 380 feet from home. 1-0 Mets. Daniel Murphy hit a one-out single to left in the next at bat. Wilmer Flores chased a high, two-strike fastball for a swinging strike three and Scherzer's fifth K. Dilson Herrera went down swinging as Scherzer struck out the side. 6 Ks, 56 pitches after a 16-pitch frame.
Scherzer got two ground ball outs from the Mets' 8-9 hitters and but Curtis Granderson lined a "double" to left with two down, sliding in and knocking the ball out of Dan Uggla's glove after a strong throw to second by Jayson Werth. Juan Lagares came up with two down and lined a single to right... but Bryce Harper came up throwing and nailed Granderson at the plate. 18-pitch frame. 74 total.
Lucas Duda K'd swinging for Scherzer's seventh K and two quick outs later, the Nats' right-hander was through a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth at 83 pitches.
Wilmer Flores fouled a 1-2 fastball into Wilson Ramos' mitt for Scherzer's 8th K and the first out of the Mets' seventh. Dilson Herrera took a 94 mph 2-2 fastball for a called strike three. 9 Ks. Kevin Plawecki hit a first-pitch fastball to center for a two-out hit. Pinch hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis stepped in for Matt Harvey and K'd swinging at a 1-2 fastball for out no.3 and Scherzer's 10th K. 15-pitch frame, 98 total.
• Max Scherzer's Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 Ks, 1 HR, 98 P, 66 S, 5/4 GO/FO.
4. The Dark Knight of Gotham?: Before the Nationals faced Mets' ace Matt Harvey in his first major league start after Tommy John surgery back on April 9th in the nation's capital, Nats' manager Matt Williams preached patience, telling reporters that neither starter that day, Stephen Strasburg or Harvey, made for a comfortable opponent for hitters, but Harvey would likely be limited in his pitch count.
"I'd try to limit what I swing at," the major league slugger-turned-manager said when asked how he would approach facing the right-hander. "Pick a side of the plate or pick a pitch that I want to hit."
"From a manager's perspective," Williams continued, "we want to be patient with him today, we want to make sure he's throwing the ball over the plate, not chase balls, elevate that pitch count as much as we can in hopes of getting him out of the game."
It didn't go as he'd hoped. Harvey dominated Nats' hitters, striking out nine and limiting the Nationals to four hits over six scoreless frames in a six-inning effort in which he threw 91 pitches and improved to (2-1) career against the Mets' NL East rivals while lowering his ERA against Washington to 0.80, 3 ER in 33 innings pitched, over which he walked eight (2.18 BB/9), struck out 44 (12.00 K/9) and held Nationals' hitters to a combined .178/.230/.271 line.
"I thought he was really good," Williams said after watching Harvey's return to the majors. "The ability to throw the breaking ball for strikes, offspeed, changeups. Generally, you would imagine the first time back out there, in a real game, anyway, [he] would have some adrenaline throwing, but he had feel, good fastball between 94-97 and throwing it where he wanted to. So, that's why he's one of the premier pitchers in our game. He's really good."
Harvey's second start of the year against the Nationals began with a scoreless 13-pitch first in which he worked around an infield single/error on a Michael Taylor grounder to short.
Wilson Ramos reached on a dribbler to third that bounced off the bag with two out in the top of the second, but Ian Desmond (0 for his last 27) popped up to end a scoreless 16-pitch second by Harvey, who was up to 29 pitches total after two.
Michael Taylor doubled to right with two down in the top of the third, taking a 97 mph 1-2 fastball the other way, but Yunel Escobar's groundout to short ended Harvey's third scoreless after 13 pitches, 42 total.
Ryan Zimmerman doubled off the base of the wall in center with two down in the fourth, but Wilson Ramos grounded out to short to end a 16-pitch fourth that left Harvey at 58 pitches.
Juan Lagares made a diving catch to rob Ian Desmond of an 0-for-breaking hit to right for the first out of the fifth. Dan Uggla reached on an error by Wilmer Flores in the next at bat, and Max Scherzer bunted him over/gave up an out. Michael Taylor stepped in with one on and two out and grounded out to short to end a 10-pitch frame. 68 total for Harvey after five scoreless.
Bryce Harper walked with two down in the top of the sixth, taking the first free pass from Harvey and then stole second with Ryan Zimmerman at the plate... or so he thought. The call was reversed. 86 pitches overall for Harvey after a 16-pitch frame.
Wilson Ramos singled to right with one down in the seventh, but Ian Desmond grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP. 0 for 29. Seven-pitch frame for Harvey, 93 total after seven.
• Matt Harvey's Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 93 P, 61 S, 10/1 GO/FO.
3. Harvey vs Harper: Bryce Harper, 22, was 0 for 3 with three swinging Ks when he faced 26-year-old Mets' starter Matt Harvey back on April 9th in Nationals Park, leaving him 0 for 10 career with five strikeouts against New York's first-round pick from 2010, the year Harper went no.1 overall.
"He swung at some balls out of the strike zone today," Matt Williams told reporters after the game.
"The strikeouts were balls up in the zone," Williams explained, "and with Matt that ball comes in there pretty quickly, so one of the keys against him is to make sure that we swing at strikes. He got Harper a couple of times today."
"He’s gonna be Cy Young one day and everybody knows that," Harper told reporters, including NatsInsider.com's Chase Hughes, after a tough day at the plate against the Mets' hard-throwing righty.
"He's one of the toughest at-bats I’ve ever had. He’s very tough out there. He’s a very good pitcher and he got us this time."
In their second matchup of the season tonight in Citi Field, where Harper had a .310/.385/.583 line (26 for 84) with five doubles and six home runs after a 2 for 4 night at the plate last night in which he hit two doubles and drove in three runs, Harper first at bat vs Harvey tonight came in the first at bat of the second.
1st AB: Harper fell behind 0-2 quickly in the first at bat vs Harvey tonight, but didn't chase a fastball that was eye-level. A 1-2 heater inside was fouled into Mets' catcher Kevin Plawecki's mitt. 0 for 11, 6 Ks. 0 for 4, 4 Ks this season.
2nd AB: With one out in the top of the fourth, Harper stepped in again and after fouling off a bunt, he missed a high heater, spit on an 0-2 slider in the dirt, fouled of a 97 mph fastball up high outside, laid off a 1-2 slider, took a 2-2 curve to get to a full count and after fouling off a 3-2 fastball, popped up on a full-count curve. 0 for 12.
3rd AB: With no one on and two out in the sixth, Harper stepped in again. Taking a helmet high heater for ball one then fouling off a fastball. Harper fouled off a 97 mph 1-1 fastball outside to fall behind 1-2, but let a 97 mph heater go by up high, then spit on a breaking ball in the dirt to get to a full count and took a fastball outside for ball four and the first walk of the night from the Mets' starter.
2. Turning Point(s): Max Scherzer was rolling through 3 ⅓ hitless before Mets' left fielder Michael Cuddyer got hold of a 94 mph 0-1 fastball and hit it out to center field in Citi Field, over the GEICO sign and the moved-in wall for a 380+ft solo blast that made it 1-0 New York.
Curtis Granderson doubled to left with two down in the bottom of the fifth, knocking the ball out of Dan Uggla's glove as he slid into second, and Juan Lagares lined a two-out single to right in the next at bat. Granderson went for it, speeding around third and heading for home only to get thrown out by Bryce Harper, whose throw beat him to the plate. Wilson Ramos tagged him in the mush for an inning-ending putout. Still 1-0 Mets.
The Mets loaded the bases when Blake Treinen walked Michael Cuddyer with two on and one out in the eighth and Treinen stayed in to face Daniel Murphy, who lined to left and over Jayson Werth's head when he started in, broke back and slipped on the outfield grass. Three run scored, 4-0 Mets.
1. The Wrap-Up: Alex Torres took over for Matt Harvey in the top of the eighth, giving up a single to center by Dan Uggla and a long fly ball to left by Tyler Moore that Michael Cuddyer caught at the wall.
Jeurys Familia came on with one down looking for a five-out save. Michael Taylor sent a fly to right for out no.2. Yunel Escobar K'd swinging to end the inning. Still 1-0 New York.
Matt Thornton took over in the bottom of the eighth and gave up a one-out single by Juan Lagares and a line drive to center by Lucas Duda. Blake Treinen came on to face Michael Cuddyer with two on and one out and walked him. Daniel Murphy lined the next pitch to left and Jayson Werth misjudged it and missed the liner.
Three runs score, 4-0 Mets.
Familia came back out for the ninth and retired the side in order.
Nationals now 10-14