WASHINGTON – A benches-clearing interruption after Mets star Francisco Lindor was hit by a pitch 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 Friday night.
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 plunked Bell. That followed three occasions during New York’s 5-1 win on opening day Thursday when a Mets batter was struck – James McCann was hit twice, and Pete Alonso left with a bloody lip in the ninth.
So when Washington reliever Steve Cishek‘s second pitch caught Lindor in the jaw in the fifth inning Friday, Mets manager Buck Showalter led the charge, cursing as he headed to the field. Mets and Nationals players and coaches met on the grass between home and third base.
X-rays on Lindor’s jaw came back negative, and he cleared a concussion test.
Cishek had just replaced starter Josiah Gray (0-1) – who arrived in Washington in the trade that sent Scherzer to the Los Angeles Dodgers at last July’s trade deadline – after the Mets had taken a 4-3 lead. Lindor squared to bunt, and Cishek’s second pitch was high and inside. Cishek and Nationals third base coach Gary DiSarcina were ejected.
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.
“He’s a big part of our past. I’ve got a long history with him and I love him. One of the great Nationals of all-time,” Rizzo said, “but tonight he’s a Met, and we’re going to try and beat him.”
They didn’t, and by the end, after an announced crowd of 25,677 had dwindled to dozens, shouts of “Let’s go, Mets!” rang out from fans bunched near the visiting dugout.
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.