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Washington Nationals send Max Scherzer out on Opening Day again...

For the fourth time in his five seasons in D.C., Max Scherzer is starting on Opening Day, taking on NY Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom in Game 1 of 162.

Washington Nationals Photo Day Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Max Scherzer led all National League pitchers in strikeouts (300), K/9 (12.24), hits allowed per nine innings pitched (6.12), WHIP (0.91), SO/BB (5.88), opponents’ AVG (.188), and wins (tied, 18) in 2018. He also finished ranked second in opponents’ OBP (.247), ranked third in ERA (2.53) and opponents’ OPS (.580), and fifth in opponents’ SLG (.332). Not. Bad. Max.

Scherzer is the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day starter for the fourth time in his five seasons in D.C., with the one exception since he signed a 6-year/$210M deal in Washington in 2017, when he was working to return from a stress fracture in a knuckle on his pitching hand.

How does the now-34-year-old starter approach starting in the season opener?

“You just go out there and compete,” Scherzer told reporters earlier this week.

“You go out there and see what you’ve got, and you try to put together everything you’ve been thinking about this whole offseason. And so now it’s your first real test of what it’s like to have to go face a team like the [New York] Mets and what they’re capable of doing.”

For the first time in three seasons, Scherzer isn’t coming off an NL Cy Young award-winning campaign, having lost out to Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom this past winter, though it wasn’t an issue with him that he finished second in the voting.

“[deGrom] had an unbelievable year and I congratulate him,” Scherzer said at the Nationals’ Winterfest celebration last December.

“It wasn’t that he was just going out there throwing five or six innings, no, he was pitching deep into ballgames, seven eight innings, and he was really throwing the ball well, and we saw that in September, firsthand. And his season as a whole, he did it from start to finish.

“So it was an incredible season by him and he rightfully won it.”

After the Mets named deGrom their Opening Day starter in early March, he said he was excited about the opportunity to match up with Scherzer in the opener.

“That’s who you want to start against. That’s why we do this, to compete. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, so I’m looking forward to that matchup,” deGrom said, as quoted on Twitter by’s Anthony DiComo.

As the writer noted in an article on the matchup, it’s going to be, “... the first time since 1979 that either league’s reigning Cy Young Award winner will face the runner-up on Opening Day.”

As Scherzer noted, they’re not really facing one another, per se.

“You’re cognizant when you’re facing someone as good as Jake,” he explained, “you’ve got to bring your A-game, but it’s Opening Day, everybody is going to bring their A-game.

“Nobody is coming out flat the first game of the year. Everybody is going to be coming out full-tilt, so you expect that. And for me, I’m facing their lineup, I’m not necessarily facing Jake, and he’s not facing me, he’s facing our lineup, so really the contest is between us and the hitting coaches.”

Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez is excited about the matchup of two of the best righties in all of baseball.

“Two of the best. Max is excited and ready to go,” Martinez said this week.

In an interview with Georgetown Hoyas’ great Patrick Ewing this week, Scherzer talked about getting the Opening Day nod and how he handles the assignment.

He was asked if he ever get nervous starting on Opening Day?

“I never get nervous, but everybody is anxious,” Scherzer said. “Everybody is anxious for the season to start, and the coolest thing about Opening Day is when everybody is lined up on the field and you get one of those flyovers. When you get some F-16s flying over, that raises the hair on the back of your neck. It’s just that adrenaline rush, and it’s just a really cool day.

“You’re toeing [the rubber] against the other team’s ace,” he added, “and you’re going at it and everybody is excited and it’s a sold-out crowd.”

Spring Training is over. No more Grapefruit League games. Now these games count, and the Nationals ace said he’s ready for that.

“Physically I’m right where I need to be,” Scherzer said on Monday. “Throughout Spring Training, with the running, lifting, building up through, getting up to 75-90 and then 100 pitches, that’s how you want to do it. With the off days, managing that, coming on six days into the season, everything is mapped out just the way we wanted it, and we just go out there and compete.”

“We’ve been waiting this whole offseason, we’ve been training this whole offseason. We’ve been going since December, you know, every single week of getting ready for this moment, to get ready to go out there and start the year off. It’s happy to get into the regular season and get into your midseason form and your routines and everything, because that’s where you feel comfortable and I just want to go out there and compete.”