Lindor plunking overshadows Scherzer’s return; Mets top Nats

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — Mets star Francisco Lindor was face-down in the dirt near home plate, his helmet no longer atop his blue-dyed curly hair, his jaw smarting after being plunked – the fourth time a pitch struck a New York player in a span of 1 1/2 games against the Washington Nationals.

He heard, then saw, teammates and coaches storming out of the dugout Friday night. Manager Buck Showalter was cursing and shouting and leading the way.

“I got hit. I was on the ground. I hear scuffles. I look up. My whole entire team is out there. Whole entire coaching staff is out there,” Lindor said. “I could see the bullpen sprinting in. That says a lot.”

That benches-clearing interruption after reliever Steve Cishek‘s pitch connected with Lindor’s face overshadowed Max Scherzer‘s return to Nationals Park even as the three-time Cy Young Award winner pitched New York to a 7-3 victory over Washington.

On an evening that began with a 14-minute delay because the stadium lights weren’t working and sputtered to an end with a 38-minute rain delay in the top of the ninth, Scherzer (1-0) allowed three runs and three hits in six innings in his debut for the Mets.

The right-hander was greeted by a standing ovation during his warmup tosses, then walked one, struck out six and gave up a two-run homer to former teammate Josh Bell that made it 3-all in the fourth. Scherzer – signed by New York to a $130 million, three-year deal – knew it was gone immediately, spinning around on the mound as soon as Bell made contact.

Back in the second inning, one of Scherzer’s pitches hit Bell. That followed three occasions during New York’s 5-1 win on Thursday when a Mets batter was struck – James McCann was plunked twice, and Pete Alonso left with a bloody lip in the ninth.

“I think they understood our frustration,” Showalter said about the umpires, who ejected Cishek and Nationals third base coach Gary DiSarcina on Friday.

“I don’t really want to hear about `intent,”‘ Showalter said, his arms crossed. “If you’re throwing up in there, those things can happen. Max didn’t have any trouble controlling the ball tonight.”

Crew chief Mark Carlson told a pool reporter that Cishek was tossed not for hitting Lindor but because he “continued to escalate the situation after the fact” by “coming in towards the melee, basically.”

Similarly, Carlson said, DiSarcina was punished for being “one of the aggressors and not helping de-escalate it.”

Lindor’s X-ray came back negative and he cleared a concussion test. He had a red scratch near his chin and said he was cut inside his mouth and might have a cracked tooth. He expected to play Saturday.

“I don’t know how he didn’t have more damage,” Showalter said.

Cishek called the episode “totally unintentional” and apologized to Lindor when they ran into each other in the bowels of the stadium.

“I thought I was going to get a warning, for sure, but to be ejected was a bit of a surprise,” Cishek said.

He had just replaced starter Josiah Gray (0-1) – who arrived in Washington in the swap that sent Scherzer to the Los Angeles Dodgers at last July’s trade deadline – after the Mets had taken a 4-3 lead.

New York’s highlights at the plate included Jeff McNeil homering on his 30th birthday – he also went deep on his 29th – Starling Marte‘s three RBIs and designated hitter Robinson Cano‘s two-run single.

Gray allowed four runs and eight hits in four-plus innings.

Scherzer tweaked his right hamstring late in spring training, creating uncertainty about when he would pitch. Nationals leadoff hitter Cesar Hernandez opened the game with a bunt, and Scherzer made the play without a hitch.

Hours before, Scherzer was the second player off a team bus that arrived at 3:50 p.m. When a gate was raised and the vehicle pulled up near the home clubhouse, he stepped down and, hands shoved into the pockets of a blue jacket, walked briskly down a hallway toward the visiting team’s digs.

Even though he was with Washington for 6 1/2 years and helped it win the 2019 World Series, the current roster is unfamiliar: General manager Mike Rizzo began rebuilding along the way to a second straight last-place finish last season.

“A lot of great memories here, but the team’s different,” Scherzer said. “It’s not the same team I played with.”


Mets: CF Brandon Nimmo had two hits, including a triple, a day after sitting out because of a stiff neck.

Nationals: Rizzo declined to offer a timeline for when RHP Stephen Strasburg (thoracic outlet syndrome surgery last year) might be ready to pitch.


RHP Chris Bassitt makes his first start for the Mets; he arrived from the Athletics in a trade less than a month ago. The Nationals start RHP Joan Adon, whose major league debut came in the regular-season finale on Oct. 3.

Anthony Volpe, 21, wins Yankees’ starting shortstop job

Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sp

TAMPA, Fla. — Anthony Volpe grew up watching Derek Jeter star at shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Now, the 21-year-old is getting the chance to be the Yankees’ opening day shortstop against the San Francisco Giants.

The team announced after a 6-2 win over Toronto in spring training that Volpe had won the spot. New York manager Aaron Boone called the kid into his office to deliver the news.

“My heart was beating pretty hard,” said Volpe, rated one of baseball’s best prospects. “Incredible. I’m just so excited. It’s hard for me to even put into words.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, hitting coach Dillon Lawson and bench coach Carlos Mendoza were also present.

Volpe was able to share the news with his parents and other family members near the Yankees’ dugout and said it is something he will never forget.

“It was pretty emotional,” Volpe said. “It was just an unbelievable moment to share with them.”

Volpe, who grew up a Yankees fan, lived in Manhattan as a child before moving to New Jersey. Jeter was his favorite player.

“It’s very surreal,” Volpe said. “I’ve only ever been to games at Yankee Stadium and for the most part only watched him play there.”

Volpe is hitting .314 with three homers, five RBIs and a .417 on-base percentage in 17 Grapefruit League games. He has just 22 games of experience at Triple-A.

Spring training started with Volpe, Oswald Peraza and holdover Isiah Kiner-Falefa competing for the everyday shortstop job. Kiner-Falefa was shifted into a utility role midway through camp, and Peraza was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday evening.

“While certainly the performance was there, he killed it between the lines,” Boone said of Volpe. “All the other things that we’ve been hearing about showed up. There’s an energy he plays the game with, and an instinct that he has that is evident. He really checked every box that we could have had for him. Absolutely kicked the door in and earned his opportunity.”

Volpe arrived in Florida in December to work out at the Yankees’ minor league complex.

“He’s earned the right to take that spot, and we’re excited for him and excited for us,” Cashman said. “He just dominated all sides of the ball during February and March, and that bodes well obviously for him as we move forward.”

Volpe was selected out of high school with the 30th overall pick in the 2019 draft from Delbarton School in New Jersey. He passed up a college commitment to Vanderbilt to sign with the Yankees.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get into the organization,” Volpe said. “This day, this feeling, this moment was kind of what I’ve worked my whole life for when I made that big decision.”

“Right now it’s crazy,” he added. “I don’t even know what lies ahead but Thursday I just want to go out and play, and have fun.”