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Washington Nationals fall to Max Scherzer & New York Mets, 7-3: Benches clear after HBP

Max Scherzer vs Josiah Gray. Benches clearing. A rain delay. Interesting night in Nationals Park. Mets win, 7-3.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Max is Back:

In his return to the nation’s capital for the first time as a member of the New York Mets’ staff, Max Scherzer went six strong on the mound in what ended up a 6-3 win for his new club in his first start against the Washington Nationals since he was traded last July and signed with the Nats’ NL East rivals as a free agent this winter (taking a 3-year/$130M deal from NY).

Going into the game, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo said it was nice to have Scherzer back in D.C., but after welcoming him home, they were going to put emotions aside and do their best to beat him.

“It’s emotional to the fact that we want to beat Max, that’s the emotion I have,” Rizzo said in a pregame meeting with reporters on the field in Nationals Park.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“And he’s a big part of our past, and I’ve got a long history with him and I love him, one of the great Nationals of all time, but tonight he’s a Met and we’re going to try to beat him.”

Knowing Scherzer well, Rizzo didn’t try to speak to him today.

“I saw him in Spring Training, that was the last time I spoke to him ... you don’t want to speak to him on a day he pitches by the way,” he joked.

Scherzer hit Josh Bell with a first pitch curve to lead off the bottom of the second, after a seven-pitch, 1-2-3 first, and Bell sped around to third on a Keibert Ruiz single, then scored on a sac fly to left-center off Yadiel Hernandez’s bat, which put the home team up 1-0 on their former ace.

Bell hit a 95 MPH 1-2 fastball from Scherzer out to right for a 443-foot, two-run shot in the bottom of the fourth, tying things up at 3-3 after the Mets jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the top of the inning.

Scherzer’s 23-pitch fourth left him at 57 pitches overall on the night, and he came back out for the fifth, after a long delay with runs scored, a scary HBP, a bench-clearing kerfuffle, and a couple pitching changes, and retired the side in order in a 12-pitch frame which left him at 69 total.

A walk to Juan Soto started the sixth, but a 6-4-3 DP off Nelson Cruz’s bat, and a Josh Bell lineout to second ended an 11-pitch frame. 80 total. That was it for Scherzer’s 2022 debut.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 80 P, 53 S, 5/3 GO/FO.

Gray’s Day:

Josiah Gray talked this winter about not worrying about having to live up to the hype that comes with being traded for a pitcher like Max Scherzer, who accomplished what he did, and had the impact he did in his time with the Nationals.

LA’s Dodgers got a rental Scherzer and a year-plus of Trea Turner in the deal which brought Gray, catcher Keibert Ruiz, pitcher Gerardo Carrillo, and outfielder Donovan Casey to D.C., with Ruiz and Gray the top prospects coming over from Los Angeles in the trade.

“I don’t think of it as pressure,” Gray told veteran Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga in Spring Training:

“But I would say it always comes with the added: ‘Hey, here’s Keibert Ruiz. Here’s Josiah Gray. They were traded for so-and-so.’ It’s always added into the conversation — which is a good thing. It’s a testament to how the organization evaluated us and traded us for some top-tier talent, $300 million players. You definitely take some pride in it.

“You say, ‘Okay, now we’re here to start it up new and kind of be that backbone for the organization now.’”

Gray’s manager, Davey Martinez, said going into tonight’s game that he wanted the pitcher to focus on the Mets’ hitters, not Scherzer.

“He shouldn’t be worried about Max, he should be worrying about their lineup and getting hitters out,” Martinez said.

Gray retired the first six he faced, four of them via the strikeout, but with one out in the top of the second, he got hurt by his archnemesis/achilles’ heel/whatever: the home run ball.

Jeff McNeil (on his birthday) hit a 95 MPH, 1-1 fastball from Gray out to right field with one out in the third, tying the game up a 1/2-inning after the Nationals jumped out to an early lead.

A leadoff walk (to Francisco Lindor), one-out double (by Eduardo Escobar), and two-run single (by Robinson Canó), put the Mets up 2-1 on Gray and the Nationals in the fourth.

With two on and two-out in the inning, catcher Tomás Nido drove a single to center field, but Dee Strange-Gordon charged the liner to center and came up throwing, nailing Canó for out No. 3 of a 28-pitch frame, 3-1 NY.

It was a 3-3 game when Gray came back out for the fifth, and gave up a leadoff triple to right field by Brandon Nimmo, who hustled around to third base as Juan Soto tracked it down, and scored on a double by Starling Marte in the next at-bat, 4-3 Mets.

That was it for Gray...

Josiah Gray’s Line: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 80 P, 47 S, 3/1 GO/FO.

4th Time In 2 Games:

Steve Cishek took over for the Nationals in the top of the fifth, and hit Francisco Lindor on the chin with an 0-1 fastball as the Mets’ shortstop squared to bunt, on a scary play that set the visitors off, understandably, after three HBPs (including another scary one that hit Pete Alonso’s shoulder/face in last night’s season opener).

Both benches cleared, and Cishek was (somewhat mysteriously) ejected once order was restored.

Sean Doolittle took over with two on and no one out and stranded both of the runners he’d inherited to keep it a one-run game after 4 1/2, 4-3 Mets.

Victor Arano got two outs (one a bunt/gift) after giving back-to-back singles to start the Mets’ sixth, but a two-out, two-run single to left, on a hanging slider from the Nationals’ reliever, put the visiting team up 6-3. Starling Marte hit it. We forgot to mention that.

Pete Alonso doubled off of Paolo Espino to lead off the top of the ninth, but heavy rain in the nation’s capital sent the game into a delay at 10:40 PM...

... they came back out at 11:17, and the Mets added to their lead with Jeff McNeil coming up with a two-out RBI single off Espino (who came back out after a 37-minute break, 7-3.

Nationals now 0-2