Scherzer takes key step, González dominates Mets (Nats win 3-1)


Score: Nationals 3, Mets 1

Recap: Gio González authored the best start of an already strong spring, holding the Mets without a hit over five innings. The left-hander put only one man on base (via walk) and quickly erased him with a double play. In four Grapefruit League starts now, González has surrendered only one run and five hits in 12 innings, walking three while striking out seven. Vance Worley took over and retired the side in the sixth, but Jacob Turner squashed any hope of a spring training no-hitter when he surrendered a soft double down the right-field line to Asdrubal Cabrera with one out in the top of the seventh. ... Bryce Harper launched a solo homer (his sixth of the spring) in the bottom of the first, taking Zack Wheeler deep to right field. ... Koda Glover earned the save with a scoreless ninth.

Need to know: After opening his spring in an 0-for-17 funk, Ryan Zimmerman has begun to find his stroke. The veteran first baseman has three hits in the last two days, including a scorched RBI single to right-center in today’s game.

On deck: Friday vs. Marlins in Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Max Scherzer took an important step toward rejoining the Nationals rotation in time for the start of the regular season this afternoon, while Gio González simultaneously was authoring his best start of the spring.

Scherzer pitched three innings in a minor league game outside The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, laboring through his second frame but otherwise looking sharp against the Mets’ Triple-A squad. Inside the stadium, González opened his afternoon with five hitless innings against the Mets’ big league team.

Though the stands were packed in the ballpark, there were plenty of interested onlookers just a short walk behind the right-field line at Field 4, where Scherzer made his first appearance this spring against another team.

scherzer-pitching-gray-close-sidebar.jpgRestricted to this point while his right ring finger recovers from a stress fracture, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner was cleared to face an opposing lineup at last. He got off to a rousing start, needing only eight pitches (seven strikes) to retire the side (with two strikeouts) in the top of the first.

Scherzer, who has been using a modified, three-fingered grip on his fastball to prevent the pain from resurfacing in his knuckle, did struggle a bit in the top of the second. That frame was called after he threw 30 pitches, allowing two runs on two hits, two walks and a hit batter.

Scherzer (who was working with catcher Matt Wieters) rebounded well in the top of the third, though, putting up another zero on 16 pitches. His final line: three innings, two runs, two hits, three walks, five strikeouts, one hit batter, 54 pitches (35 strikes).

It remains to be seen what’s next for Scherzer, whose status for opening day remains up in the air. When asked earlier this morning whether his ace would be ready to pitch April 3 against the Marlins, manager Dusty Baker said: “At this point, probably not.” But a final determination hasn’t been made yet.

González will be part of the Nationals’ opening day rotation, provided he’s healthy, and the left-hander put forth a dominant start this afternoon.

González allowed only one New York batter to reach base (Curtis Granderson, via walk) but he erased that man by inducing a double play from Neil Walker. He struck out two and needed only 49 pitches (33 strikes) to complete his five innings of work.

The Nationals lead 3-0 thanks to Bryce Harper’s sixth homer of the spring, Stephen Drew’s RBI double and Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI single.

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