Opening Day Takeaways: Scherzer shines, Nats' bats silenced

Ben Krimmel
March 28, 2019 - 4:46 pm

Whatever you do, don't overreact to a less than specular result on Opening Day. This is just one game. 

The only thing we can be certain of following the Washington Nationals' 2-0 Opening Day defeat to the New York Mets: They won't go undefeated in 2019.

However, there are a few takeaways to be had after Game 1 of 162 for the Nats.

Max Scherzer is really good

This is an obvious point, but baseball's most intimidating pitcher was absolutely fantastic for the Nationals. (You can go ahead and pencil that into your day planner another thirty more times.)

Baseball's strikeout king from a season ago fanned 12 over 7 2/3 innings while allowing just two earned runs on two hits and three walks.

And "Mad Max's" change-up was just untouchable against the Mets today.

Just nasty. 

"I felt good out there, I felt like I was executing pitches," Scherzer told the media. "It was a great first start for me."

However, a two-out first inning home run by Robinson Cano put the Nationals down early after Scherzer sent down the first two batters of the 2019 season swinging. And while he settled into the game and pitched well enough to be a winner, Scherzer was out-dueled by Jacob deGrom.

Fundamentals talk will be big

Down 1-0 in the third, the Nationals had runners at first and third with one out and Anthony Rendon at the plate. This was their chance to get back in the game, but then TOOTBLAN happened.

Rendon grounded to third and a 5-4-2-5 double play ensued with young Victor Robles getting caught trying to sneak home. It was the kind of mistake that just can't happen.

Robles was chased down at home after a brief rundown to complete the TOOTBLAN (aka Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop). 

Yeah, that can't happen in game one of the season after so much time was spent on fundamentals during spring training.

"Just a young base running mistake by him," Nationals manager Davey Martinez said after the game. "We talked about it, he knows just to run, stay out of the double play. We have Soto coming up if he runs into an out, but we have a man on first and second.” 

The Nationals played relatively mistake-free baseball otherwise, Trea Turner had three steals and they didn't misplay a ball on defense, but running into an out in a one-run game against a great pitcher is an absolute backbreaker. 

The Bryce Harper talk will continue 

The Nationals bats were noticeably absent managing just five hits on Opening Day.

Yes, the Mets had 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom on the mound, who allowed just five hits in six scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts, but the Nats were also kept quiet by the Mets bullpen, which tossed three-hitless innings and struck out four. 

But the Nationals have to score runs to support a great start by Scherzer.

The Nats had chances, leaving six runners on base, but went 1-7 with runners in scoring position.

And while Scherzer was cruising on the mound, Martinez made a questionable decision allowing him to hit with two outs in the 7th and the Nationals down a run. With the Nationals struggling for hits and Mets' reliever Seth Lugo on the mound a pinch hitter might have been a wiser call. (Scherzer struck out before giving way in the top half of the eighth inning.)

Martinez said he left Scherzer in the game partly in attempt to get his ace a win.

"He was doing good," Martinez said. "I communicate with Max, day in and day out, during games and he looked good. I was trying to give him a chance to stay in the game, win the game, and I knew we had six outs with our top guys coming up to hit.”

It didn't work out.

And while Nationals fans want to erase Bryce Harper from their memories, his absence will be a talking point whenever the Nats struggle on offense.

But, of course, it was just one game. It was just one game. It was just one game.

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