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Opening Day Just Like Van Wagenen Drew It Up

Four years ago, the Nationals and Mets kicked off the 2015 season with two former Cy Young Award winners. Like today, it was Max Scherzer for the Nationals. For the Mets, it was Jacob deGrom in place of Bartolo Colon. While that 2015 opener was a low scoring game, today was a true pitcher’s battle.

Over 7.2 innings, Scherzer looked like the pitcher who has dominated the National League over the past three years. In each of those seasons, Scherzer led the league in the strikeouts including striking out 300 batters last year. Against, the Mets he would strike out 11 batters. Looking at him pitch, his stuff was completely unfair:

He was all the more dangerous with him getting some really favorable calls, two of which came against Michael Conforto. With him allowing just two hits and three walks, it was clear he did not make many mistakes. But on the one he did make, Robinson Cano would send it opposite field for a homer in his first at-bat as a Met:

That would not be the only impact Cano would have on this game. In addition to the home run, Cano would make a heads up and savvy veteran play in the field in the third when the Mets 1-0 lead was teetering:

With the ball not being hit quite hard enough and with Jeff McNeil having to hesitate a slight second to keep the runner from breaking right away, Cano was smart in catching Victor Robles making a rookie mistake breaking to home on the play. Robles’ mistake took the 1st and 3rd one out situation and turned it into an inning ending double play.

Basically, deGrom took it from there. If there was any question deGrom was going to repeat his 2018 Cy Young season or if the extension drama affected his preparation for the season, they were quickly dispensed. In six shutout innings, deGrom just walked one and would strike out 10 batters. He ramped up his game when he needed.

For example, in the sixth, Trea Turner led off the inning with a single, and he would quickly steal second (his second steal of the game). With Turner’s speed, Wilson Ramos never really had a chance against him. That was evident when Turner stole third after an Anthony Rendon ground out. With a runner on third and one out, deGrom would just embarrass Juan Soto:

After a Ryan Zimmerman fly out, the threat was over, and Mickey Callaway would tab Seth Lugo for the seventh. Like deGrom, he picked up where he left off in 2018 by striking out the side.

What was curious about that top of the seventh was Nationals Manager Dave Martinez would leave in Scherzer to strike out to end the inning. This meant Scherzer would go one inning too far.

Dominic Smith would get the rally started with a one out walk against Scherzer. Scherzer was lifted after striking out Brandon Nimmo for the third time, and Pete Alonso would get his first career hit with a single off Nationals reliever Justin Miller.

Martinez would go to they lefty Matt Grace to face Cano. Cano proved he still is a platoon neutral bat sending an RBI single to left scoring Smith to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.

Callaway would then go through some mechanations to set up the final two innings.

After his first career hit, Alonso was lifted for Keon Broxton. Broxton then stayed in the game for defense replacing Conforto in right. With Alonso out of the game, Smith would stay in the game at first for defense. After that, it was Jeurys Familia getting through a scoreless eighth in his new role as Mets set-up man.

Edwin Diaz would make his Mets debut in the ninth with a two run lead to protect. He’d get the Nationals in order to preserve the 2-0 lead and register his first save as a Met. Interestingly, the first two outs were fly balls to right with Broxton fighting through the tough sun to record the out.

All in all, the Mets have once again won on Opening Day continuing their MLB best winning percentage on Opening Day. They’re now 38-20 (.655) on Opening Day. That’s not the only impressive record from today.

With his performance today, deGrom had his 25th straight quality start putting him one behind Bob Gibson for the all-time record. At the same time, deGrom extended his own MLB record with his 30th straight start allowing three earned or fewer.

Today, Brodie Van Wagenen looked like a genius. Cano delivered the only two RBI in the game. Alonso delivered a hit in a rally giving the Mets an insurance run. Diaz had the save. And of course, the pitcher he long advocated to extend pitched like an ace. Really, this is as good a start to the Van Wagenen Era as he could have hoped.

Game Notes: For the first time in Mets history six players were taking part in their first ever Opening Day (Alonso, Smith, McNeil, Luis Guillorme, Tomas Nido, Tim Peterson). Conforto and Lagares were the only two Mets not to reach base safely at least once in the game.

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