NEW YORK - Max Scherzer was good. Not 20-strikeout good. But more than good enough to win most nights.
Just not on nights when Noah Syndergaard is this good.
Syndergaard tossed seven scoreless innings, striking out 10 without issuing any walks and outdueling Scherzer, whose two solo homers allowed proved the difference in the Nationals' 2-0 loss to the Mets in the first matchup of 2016 between the National League East's last two champions.
The opener of this series, which also featured Daniel Murphy's debut as a visiting player at Citi Field, lived up to the billing. These two rivals are built to win with dominant starting pitching, and both guys who took the mound tonight were dominant.
But where Syndergaard was able to keep the ball in the park all night, Scherzer was doomed once again by his inability to do just that.
Making his first appearance since his historic 20-strikeout game against the Tigers six nights ago, Scherzer knew he was facing another stiff challenge in a Mets lineup loaded with power hitters. Sure enough, Curtis Granderson greeted him with a high fly ball just over the right field fence on his very first pitch of the game.
Two innings later, Michael Conforto duplicated the feat, roping a solo shot to nearly the same spot in right field that put the Mets ahead 2-0 and added to Scherzer's growing list of longballs surrendered.
Scherzer has now given up 13 home runs in nine starts this season, tied with Kansas City's Chris Young for the major league lead.
Those two homers, though, were the only hits Scherzer allowed through his first six innings. He didn't induce quite as many swings and misses as he did last time, but he still induced enough to strike out 10 batters, giving him 30 over his last two starts (three shy of the modern record).
That normally would have made Scherzer the talk of this game, but Syndergaard is anything but a normal opponent.
The hulking Mets right-hander dominated from the get-go, throwing seven of his 12 pitches in the top of the first inning at 100 mph, including one in on the hands that Bryce Harper could only fight off enough to ground weakly up the first base line. Syndergaard stuck out Harper his next two times up, once on another 100 mph fastball, then on a 91 mph, full-count slider.
The Nationals actually produced more hits off Syndergaard (five) than the Mets did off Scherzer (three), but without hitting the ball out of the park, they needed to string together more in sequence to post anything other than a zero on the scoreboard.
They couldn't do that. With runners on the corners and one out in the top of the second, Wilson Ramos grounded into an inning-ending double play. The only other time they put two men on base in the same inning versus Syndergaard was the top of the sixth, but that rally was halted by Ben Revere getting thrown out trying to steal second.
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