NEW YORK - Daniel Murphy’s latest big hit off the Mets gave the Nationals an early jolt of offense. Max Scherzer then did the rest, pitching the Nats to a 6-3 victory to seal a three-game sweep at Citi Field and a seven-game winning streak for the team that now owns baseball’s best record.
Murphy’s first-inning grand slam capped a big early rally for the Nationals against Zack Wheeler and provided yet another moment for the former Mets second baseman in the park he used to call home.
Ryan Zimmerman also homered, launching a two-run insurance blast in the top of the eighth, to extend the Nationals’ lead and provide Scherzer some cushion to end his night on a high note.
Scherzer, who allowed two homers early, retired 15 of the last 16 batters he faced and departed after the bottom of the eighth, his pitch count at 110.
With back-to-back sweeps in Atlanta and New York, the Nats - now an MLB-best 13-5 - head to Colorado for a four-game series with the Rockies to wrap up this daunting road trip.
Five batters into the game, the Nationals were sitting about as pretty as possible. Their first three batters all reached base against Wheeler, and though Zimmerman struck out, they still had Murphy at the plate with the bases loaded.
Murphy has excelled not only when facing his former team but also when having that much, as he likes to describe it, traffic on the bases. So nobody in the crowd at Citi Field was shocked when he proceeded to launch Wheeler’s 1-0 pitch to center field for a grand slam.
It was the Nationals’ third grand slam in five days - both Bryce Harper and Zimmerman did it Wednesday night in Atlanta - and it continued Murphy’s remarkable run. Over the last three years with the bases loaded, he’s now hitting .520 (13-for-25) with two homers, 36 RBIs and a 1.458 OPS.
As ugly as the start of the game was for the Mets, though, Wheeler quickly settled in and gave his teammates a chance to mount a comeback. Which is precisely what they did.
Michael Conforto lofted Scherzer’s second pitch of the night just inside the left field foul pole to put the Mets on the board. It was the first homer surrendered by Scherzer this season, a stark cry from his struggles in that department in 2016, when he led the league with 31 long balls allowed.
And the Mets weren’t done. Neil Walker launched his own two-run homer to right in the bottom of the third, and just like that the Nationals’ lead was trimmed to 4-3.
Scherzer, though, stepped up his game after that. He faced the minimum over his final five innings, finishing with nine strikeouts. And by keeping his pitch manageable, he was able to go eight innings for the first time this season, stalking off the mound after recording his final out and getting a high-five from manager Dusty Baker.
Zimmerman’s two-run homer off Josh Smoker in the top of that inning helped provide some breathing room. It was Zimmerman’s sixth home run of the season and leaves him batting .387 with 16 RBIs. Despite that hot start, he actually trails Harper (batting .400 with seven homers and 20 RBIs) in all three categories.