WASHINGTON – An interruption of bench clearance 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 launched New York to a 7-win 3 against Washington Friday night.
On a night that started 14 minutes late because the stadium lights weren’t working and ended 38 minutes late in the rain early in the ninth, Scherzer (1-0) allowed three runs and three hits. in six innings in his Mets debut.
The right-hander was greeted with a standing ovation on his warm-up pitches, then walked one, struck out six and gave up a two-run homer to former teammate Josh Bell who made it 3-all in the fourth. Scherzer — signed by New York to a three-year, $130 million deal — knew he was gone immediately, spinning on the mound as soon as Bell made contact.
Back in the second inning, one of Scherzer’s pitches dived Bell. That followed three chances in New York’s 5-1 opening day win on Thursday when a Mets hitter was hit – 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, swearing as he headed downfield. 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 passed 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 took a lead of 4-3. Lindor squared the bunt, and Cishek’s second pitch was high and inside. Cishek and Nationals third baseman coach Gary DiSarcina were ejected.
New York highlights at the plate included Jeff McNeil’s home run on his 30th birthday – he also went wide on 29th – Starling Marte’s three RBIs and designated forward Robinson’s two-run single Cano.
Gray allowed four runs and eight hits over four innings.
Scherzer modified his right hamstring at the end of spring training, creating uncertainty about when he would throw. Nationals leadoff hitter César Hernández opened the game with a bunt, and Scherzer made the play without a hitch.
Hours earlier, Scherzer was the second player to get off a team bus that arrived at 3:50 p.m. When a door was lifted and the vehicle pulled up near the clubhouse, he quit 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 6½ years and helped it win the 2019 World Series, the current roster is unfamiliar: General Manager Mike Rizzo began to rebuild himself en route to a second last place in a row last season.
“He’s a big part of our past. I have a long history with him and I love him. One of the all-time great Nationals,” Rizzo said, “but tonight is a Met , and we’ll try to beat him.”
They didn’t, and in the end, after an announced crowd of 25,677 had dwindled to dozens, shouts of “Let’s go, Mets!” rang out from the fans gathered near the visiting dugout.
Dishes: CF Brandon Nimmo had two hits, including a triple, a day after sitting out with 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 launch.
RHP Chris Bassitt makes his first start for the Mets; he arrived from Athletics in a profession less than a month ago. The Nationals start RHP Joan Adon, whose major league debut came in the regular season finale on Oct. 3.