NEW YORK - Max Scherzer is striking out opposing hitters again. Unfortunately, he's also giving up home runs again.
Scherzer's return to the mound following his historic 20-strikeout performance last week has looked awfully familiar so far. Through three innings, he has struck out four, but Curtis Granderson's leadoff homer in the first and Michael Conforto's solo homer in the third have left the right-hander and the Nationals in a 2-0 hole.
Granderson pounced on Scherzer's very first pitch of the night (a 93 mph fastball) and lofted it high into the air down the right field line. Bryce Harper gave it chase, thinking he might have a play, but ran out of real estate and could only watch as the ball cleared the fence by a couple of feet.
Two innings later, Conforto slammed a 2-2 cut fastball to nearly the same spot in right field, though with less trajectory and more velocity.
That's 13 home runs Scherzer has now allowed in nine starts so far this season, tied for most in the majors and a continued source of consternation for the Nationals.
Even at his best, Scherzer is prone to the longball. While the focus of his last start against the Tigers were the 20 strikeouts he recorded - tying the all-time record for a nine-inning game - lost in the shuffle were the two homers he surrendered, continuing a trend that dates back to late last summer.
The Nationals have yet to do damage against Mets starter Noah Syndergaard, who has put up three zeroes to date. They did threaten against the flamethrower in the top of the second when Ryan Zimmerman doubled and Anthony Rendon followed with a single.
But Wilson Ramos, who entered with a .350 batting average (second-best on the club to Daniel Murphy), grounded into a 4-6-3 double play that ended the inning and spoiled the Nats' best chance so far to score off Syndergaard.
Update: Both pitchers have found their grooves. Scherzer hasn't allowed any hits besides the two homers and has seven strikeouts through five innings. Syndergaard, meanwhile, has allowed three hits (including Murphy's bloop single in the fourth) while striking out eight through five. The Nats still trail 2-0.
Update II: We're through seven innings now, the score remains 2-0 and both starting pitchers are done. Syndergaard went seven, striking out 10 without any walks, scattrering five hits. Scherzer was pulled after 6 1/3 innings, also striking out 10 but charged with the two solo homers that remain the difference in this game.
Update III: That'll do it. Nats lose 2-0. They simply couldn't string together enough hits off Syndergaard, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia to put anything on the board. And thanks to those two early homers off Scherzer, the Mets have taken the opener of this big series.