By Paul DiSclafani
Clinging to a 4-2 lead against the Nationals in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to home runs from Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom issued consecutive 4-pitch walks to load the bases with no outs. As the Home Opening Day crowd reached a fevered pitch, deGrom circled the mound, stepped on the rubber and had to go to work.
Because deGrom was cruising to that point, (seven straight outs, 1 earned run and just four hits in five innings), new manager Mickey Calloway didn’t have anyone warming up in the bullpen, so deGrom know it was his mess and he’d have to clean it up. DeGrom got a strike on Ryan Zimmerman before he hit a lazy fly ball to short right for the first out that was too shallow to score a run. Then Kyle Kendrick hit a liner to short that Jose Reyes snagged for the second out. With Trey Turner standing in the way of getting out of a sticky situation, deGrom got him to swing and miss twice to get ahead 0-2, once on a fastball and then on a slider away. Then he got a generous call strike three on a high and away fastball to finish the inning that Turner vehemently disagreed with, resulting in him getting ejected.
DeGrom (W, 2-0) worked out of his own mess to keep it a 4-2 lead. Jay Bruce then blasted a Grand Slam the next inning and the Mets (5-1) take the first game of this early series against the Nationals (4-3), 8-2. In a long baseball season, one game doesn’t define a season, but the Mets certainly drew first blood in their desire to let the Nationals (and the rest of the National League) know that this season is going to be different.
Both teams traded runs in bizarre fashion as the Nats scored in the first inning on an error by Bruce to take a 1-0 lead. The Mets followed by scoring on a balk by starter Stephen Strasberg, the first balk he has committed since 2013.
Down 2-1, Cespedes tied the game in the fourth with his third HR of the season, a laser beam to left field. That seemed to allow deGrom to focus as he got seven straight Nationals before his meltdown in the sixth. But by that time, Conforto had put the Mets ahead 4-2 with a 2-run home run in the fifth. The ball, original ruled a double, was reviewed and correctly called a home run as it cleared the left field wall.
Strasberg (L, 1-1), who was gone after six innings, was charged with four runs on five hits and six strikeouts, watched in earnest as his relief, Brandon Kintzler, ran into trouble in the seventh. With one out, Brandon Nimmo came off the bench and delivered a double off the wall in right. Conforto reached on a four pitch walk, but Kintzler got Asdrubal Cabrera to look at strike three for the second out. He then got ahead of Cespedes 1-2, but he worked out a walk to load the bases, bringing up Bruce. Once again, Kintzler got ahead, this time sneaking two fastballs past Bruce without a swing. But Bruce worked the count to 3-2 before depositing a sinker to deep right-center for his first home run of the year and his sixth career Grand Slam, giving the Mets an 8-2 lead.
Today, the Mets were able to punch the bully in the mouth and get away with it. Let’s see if they can keep it up.
Friday is a scheduled off day, but the weather reports for Saturday in the Nation’s Capital are not promising with snow and rain approaching. Steven Matz (0-1, 6.75) is scheduled to take on Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.50) in the afternoon. Sunday is a night game, with Matt Harvey (0-0) against Tanner Roark (1-0).
POSITIVES: Mets win their first road game of the season after a terrible 2017 on the road (33-48) … deGrom improved to 14-8 in Day Games … Mets have won three straight … Conforto hadn’t had an AB since last August. He scored twice and hit an opposite field HR … Cespedes (3 HR) has 7 RBI in 5 games … Bullpen put up three more innings without a run, allowing just 2 hits and six more strikeouts … Hansel Robles gave up a double in his second appearance, but recorded three more strikeouts. He’s struck out six of the seven batters he’s faced … Nimmo came off the bench with a pinch hit double
NEGATIVES: Todd Frazier went 0-4 and his average dropped to .190 … Jose Reyes went 0-4 and is still looking for his first hit of the season (0-7). He made the Mets first error of the season yesterday and misfired on a relay throw that could have nailed a runner at the plate. He looks old …