Mets, Nationals quickly turn up the heat in rivalry

WASHINGTON — Just two games into the season, the Mets and Nationals hate each other, and it has nothing to do with Max Scherzer changing sides in the rivalry.

Scherzer returned to his old stomping grounds on Friday night and received a hearty ovation as he took the mound. The night before, the Nationals honored their former ace with a video tribute during the pregame introduction.

The warm and fluffy part of Mets Nationals is over.

Already upset by high fastballs that plunked James McCann and hit Pete Alonso too close in the face, the Mets legitimately broke out in the fifth inning after Francisco Lindor hit the ground in the batter’s box. Lindor had been drilled into the protective jaw cover by Steve Cishek while standing on his head.

Buck Showalter took the field furiously to express his displeasure with Plate umpire Chris Guccione. Mets players followed their manager from the dugout, and both the benches and bullpens were emptied.

During the fight (which thankfully involved little more than players hugging each other and screaming), Lindor got to his feet unaided and was examined by trainer Brian Chicklo. The shortstop left the field, the newest Mets player who appears to have barely avoided a serious injury. The Mets announced that X-rays of Lindor’s jaw were negative and he had passed concussion protocol.

Benches vacant after Francisco Lindor was drilled with a slap in the face.
Benches vacant after Francisco Lindor was drilled with a slap in the face.
Francisco Lindor is hit in the face with a pitch.
Francisco Lindor is hit in the face with a pitch.

Alonso got lucky last night when Mason Thompson’s high and narrow pitch hit his helmet’s protective jaw cover after it touched his arm in the ninth inning. Alonso escaped with a split lip. Teeth might have been missing if it wasn’t for the plastic flap.

These feuds within divisions can get chaotic. We saw it last year when the Mets played Philadelphia, two weeks after Phillies reserve assistant Jose Alvarado drilled Michael Conforto in the wrist. Dominic Smith didn’t forget and started chatting with Alvarado after the pitcher started pumping his fist to celebrate a strike at the end of the inning. banks emptied.

When tempted to seek revenge on his former teammates, Scherzer resisted. Team referee Mark Carlson was waiting for the right-hander as he returned to the mound for the fifth time, and while it wasn’t immediately known what Carlson said to him, you can bet it wasn’t “Drill Juan Soto.”

Scherzer got the last laugh as he defeated the Nationals on a night the Mets won 7-3. His only slip was a mammoth two-run homer that was handed to Josh Bell in the fourth inning. Scherzer allowed three hits and struck out six over six innings. Considering there were questions this week about whether he would make his first round of the rotation after suffering a hamstring strain, the Mets had to be happy.

It was unfortunate that Scherzer’s Mets debut had to be associated with an ugly bang and emptying of the benches.

Max Scherzer made his Mets debut.
Max Scherzer plays in the Mets’ win over the Nationals.

Before the game, Lindor recalled hearing from Steve Cohen during the offseason that the team was trying to land a top talent, but the owner wouldn’t say who. Lindor later attended MLB Players’ Association subcommittee meetings in Dallas and found it odd that another member of the group, Scherzer, was absent. It was then that Lindor learned that the Mets had agreed Scherzer to a three-year, $130 million contract.

Suddenly, the Mets had an ace to join Jacob deGrom in the rotation, giving the Mets a 1-2 hit that, when healthy, was capable of outperforming anyone in baseball.

Scherzer’s arrival also gave the Mets a voice in the clubhouse that needed to be respected as a World Series ring-owning player.

Max Scherzer smiles in the Mets dugout.
Max Scherzer smiles in the Mets dugout.

“Initially, the words carry a lot of weight, but you have to back it up in some way and [Scherzer] knows that better than anyone,” Showalter said. “Everyone in there knows Max’s background.”

Scherzer’s importance to the club has only increased in the past week after deGrom was diagnosed with a right shoulder blade stress reaction which, at best, will only keep him out of the rotation until the end of May.

So until deGrom can return, it will be Scherzer’s turn in the rotation who will carry the most anticipation.

In addition, there will be another 17 encounters between the Mets and the Nationals this season. The animosity has only just begun. Mets, Nationals quickly turn up the heat in rivalry


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