Home runs set the tone early in this one, and they would remain the theme all evening Sunday as the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-3 to sweep the first series of the season between the two NL East heavyweights.
Daniel Murphy’s first at-bat came in the top of the first inning with the bases loaded and he took full advantage, hitting a grand slam to continue his dominance over his former team.
Scherzer wasn’t afraid to challenge anyone in the Mets’ lineup, but a few hitters made him pay.
Michael Conforto and Neil Walker each left the yard to account for all three of New York’s runs in the game, but the Nats’ right-hander was able to go eight innings and retire the final 10 batters he faced to put Washington in a good spot heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Oliver Perez gave up a leadoff single in that final frame, but Koda Glover came to the rescue by retiring all three Mets he faced to secure the victory and series sweep.
Nats have won seven straight, are now 13-5 on the season.
Here’s how it happened:
• Mets’ starter Zack Wheeler grazed Adam Eaton’s elbow on the third pitch of the game to give the Nats a baserunner right off the bat. Eaton picked the right time to attempt a steal, making a break for second to pull shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera toward the bag when Trea Turner hit a grounder back over at Cabrera’s right.
Cabrera would be forced to stop in his tracks to field the ball, but his throw would be unable to beat Turner to first, putting runners on first and second.
Bryce Harper singled to left field right in front of Michael Conforto, forcing third base coach Bob Henley to hold Eaton and load the bases for Ryan Zimmerman with no outs.
Zimmerman struck out on three pitches, but Daniel Murphy made sure the Nats wouldn’t squander the opportunity. The former Met smacked his first grand slam of the season to dead-center to put Washington ahead 4-0 before Max Scherzer even took the mound.
• Scherzer walked out of the dugout in the bottom of the first coming off a seven-inning, two-hit effort in a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves. He was in attack mode early, but leadoff man Conforto was ready for it. Sitting on a 1-0 count, Conforto took the Nats’ ace deep to left for a solo homer that brought New York to within three.
Neil Walker drew a two-out walk three batters later, but Scherzer was able limit the damage to one run in a 21-pitch first inning.
• New York has been reliant on the long ball for runs all season, and that narrative would ring true once again in the bottom of the third. Conforto led off the frame with a single, then came around to score when Walker went deep to the right field corner to make it a 4-3 game.
• The Nats were unable to get much going against Wheeler after their four-run first inning. Only three hitters reached base between the second and seventh innings — Zimmerman was two of them — but none made it past first base.
• Zack Wheeler’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 101 P, 65 S, 5/9 GO/FO
• Scherzer, meanwhile, recovered from his early struggles as well. He went on to retire seven of the next ten batters he faced. The one Met that did reach was Conforto, whose one-out single in the fifth was quickly erased when Cabrera grounded into a nicely turned double play courtesy of Zimmerman
• New York manager Terry Collins turned to Josh Smoker to handle the eighth inning with the top of the Nats’ order due up. He retired Eaton and Turner in 10 pitches, but Harper kept the inning alive with a liner to left that Conforto nearly caught with a sliding effort.
That brought up Zimmerman, who quickly found himself in an 0-2 count. He took the next pitch for ball one, and sent the one that followed into the left field seats to extend Washington’s lead to 6-3.
• Scherzer entered the eighth inning at 93 pitches, but that didn’t prevent him from seamlessly working a 1-2-3 frame to send the game into the final inning.
• Max Scherzer’s Line: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 Ks, 110 P, 77 S, 6/9 GO/FO
• Jeurys Familia made his second appearance of the season since returning from a domestic violence suspension and first since walking in the Nats’ winning run in the opening game of the series in the top of the ninth. He worked efficiently, striking out Anthony Rendon and Michael Taylor and forcing Matt Wieters into a comebacker to give New York a chance down three with three outs left.
• Nats manager Dusty Baker gave southpaw Oliver Perez the ball to face lefty Jay Bruce to start the ninth, but Perez was quickly removed after Bruce singled to center on the second pitch he saw. Koda Glover, who earned his first career save Saturday, came in to close out the game.
Glover struck out Walker looking for the first out. He won an eight-pitch battle with Curtis Granderson, eventually forcing the right fielder to ground out to Zimmerman at first. Jose Reyes then came to the plate with Yoenis Cespedes stepping into the on-deck circle, but Glover would force Reyes to pop out and end the game.
Nationals win, 6-3. Washington now 13-5.