WASHINGTON (AP) — In some respects, the first game of 2019 felt a bit like a remnant of 2018 all over again for manager Dave Martinez and the Washington Nationals.
As much as the roster has been reworked after missing the playoffs, with plenty of folks gone — most prominently, of course, Bryce Harper — and plenty arrived to replace them, the sorts of things that ailed the Nationals last season were again on display in a 2-0 loss to the New York Mets on opening day.
That included an up-and-down-the-lineup inability to hit in the clutch and one particularly bad example of baserunning by rookie center fielder Victor Robles.
“You’re going to have a couple shots, and you better make the most of it,” right fielder Adam Eaton said. “If you don’t, you’re not going to be successful.”
The Nationals wasted Max Scherzer’s at-times dominant debut: 12 strikeouts, two hits, two runs in 7 2/3 innings. They were facing the only pitcher who received more NL Cy Young Award votes than Scherzer did last year, Jacob deGrom, who struck out 10 in six scoreless innings for the Mets.
And Washington certainly did create some chances against deGrom. Runners at first and second in the first inning. Runners at the corners with no outs in the third. Another runner stranded at third in the sixth.
“Losing in general is frustrating. It’s a long, long season. I think we’ll put this behind us pretty quick,” said shortstop Trea Turner, who stole three bases and had two singles but also struck out after getting ahead in the count 2-0 with two on. “Nothing’s won or lost on the first day, so we’ll be all right and we’ll move on.”
Harper led the team with 34 homers and 100 RBIs last season; he played Game 1 of his $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday.
So Washington probably could do without blunders such as what happened with Robles after he doubled leading off the third. Eaton followed with a single, giving the Nationals guys at first and third with no outs.
Turner went to the plate expecting a safety squeeze call with the speedy Robles 90 feet away — but ended up striking out.
That brought up No. 3 hitter Anthony Rendon, who sent a grounder to third. Robles hesitated as the third baseman threw to second base for a forceout. Robinson Cano then saw Robles heading home and threw to the plate; Robles got stuck in a rundown, leading to a 5-4-2-5 double play that ended the inning.
“To be honest, I got a little confused,” Robles said through a translator. “In the middle of the moment, I realized I had made the mistake, so I tried to kind of make up for it.”
“That’s just a young base-running mistake by him,” Martinez said. “We talked about it, and he understood. … As soon as the ball was hit, he froze a little bit.”
Notes: After Friday’s day off, the teams resume their series Saturday, with Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg starting against Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard. Strasburg is 8-5 with a 2.83 ERA in 17 career starts against the Mets; Syndergaard is 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA in five starts at Nationals Park.
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