Cruz homers, keys Nats over Mets 4-2 with 8th-inning hit

New York Mets v Washington Nationals
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WASHINGTON – Nelson Cruz hit his 450th home run and added a tiebreaking two-run single in three-run eighth inning that lifted the Washington Nationals over the Mets 4-2 on Sunday and prevented New York from an opening four-game sweep.

Washington trailed 2-1 in the eighth when Yadiel Hernandez singled leading off against Chasen Shreve, and Maikel Franco singled pinch-runner Dee Strange-Gordon to third against Trevor Williams (0-1).

Lucius Fox, who started in his major league debut, dragged a safety squeeze sacrifice bunt, and Strange-Gordon slid home headfirst ahead of first baseman Pete Alonso‘s underhand toss.

“Dee is one of the fastest players in the league,” Alonso said. “He had a good break on it. Bang-bang play. Sometimes even though it’s well-defended, you have to tip your hat to the baserunner. I feel like he had a really good read on the bunt. Fox made a really good read on the bunt. I feel like I did what I could. He’s just safe.”

Victor Robles sacrificed and Cesar Hernandez grounded to Alonso, whose throw to second for a force was wide to the right field side for an error.

“Felt like I was calm, cool, and collected,” Alonso said. “Just missed the throw, and as a result that kind of put the team in a really bad hole.”

Juan Soto grounded to Alonso, who threw home for a forceout.

Cruz, who put the Nationals ahead in the first inning with his first home run for Washington. grounded a fastball up the middle and just past shortstop Francisco Lindor for a 4-2 lead.

“Pitching was there. Defense was there. We got some clutch hits in some really important situations,” Cruz said. “Total win.”

Kyle Finnegan (1-0) pitched a perfect eighth, and Tanner Rainey worked around Mark Canha‘s leadoff single in the ninth for his first save.

Fox, 24, found out Saturday night he was going to debut Sunday. He woke at 6 a.m., then again at 7 a.m., both times thinking he was late to the field.

“It was an amazing time,” Fox said. “It was a dream come true.”

New York had been trying for its fifth 4-0 start, its first since 2012. The Mets have not swept the Nationals in Washington since 2018.

Erick Fedde became Washington’s first starter to pitch five innings, allowing two runs and five hits. Lindor’s first homer tied the game in a 34-pitch fifth, when Canha hit a go-ahead single.

Mets starter Carlos Carrasco retired 15 consecutive batters after allowing a first-inning single to Josh Bell. Carrasco allowed two hits, struck out five and walked none in 5 2/3 innings.

“We pitched well the whole series,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “If we can continue to do that, we’re going to be in good shape.”

BEREAVEMENT

Mets closer Edwin Diaz remains away from the team after the death of his grandfather. He is expected to rejoin the team Monday in Philadelphia and is eligible to be activated Tuesday.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: OF Starling Marte was not in Sunday’s starting lineup. Marte had oblique soreness at the start of spring training. Showalter said Marte “feels great” but the manager wants to be cautious.

Nationals: RHP Anibal Sanchez is “doubtful” for Monday’s expected start in Atlanta because of a stiff neck. The Nationals also placed RHP Mason Thompson (right biceps strain) on the 10-day injured list. RHP Hunter Harvey was recalled from Triple-A Rochester.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Taijuan Walker will make his season debut Monday in Philadelphia.

Nationals: Were unsure who will start Monday in Atlanta.