Vanilla is tasty enough for Scherzer in spring start vs. Mets (Nats win 9-4)


Score: Nationals 9, Mets 4

Recap: The first of at least 25 head-to-head meetings in 2016 (six in spring training, 19 in the regular season) between these National League East rivals didn't have near the importance that future showdowns likely will, but the Nationals happily put together a quality performance all around to thump the defending division champs. Their new-look lineup burst out of the gates for four runs in the bottom of the first against right-hander Rafael Montero, with Ben Revere singling on an 0-2 pitch and stealing second base, Daniel Murphy drawing a walk against his former club, Bryce Harper drilling an RBI single off the right field wall and Anthony Rendon bringing home two more runs with an opposite-field single to right. The Nats added three more runs in the sixth via Trea Turner's homer into the tiki bar beyond the left field fence and Stephen Drew's two-run single. Max Scherzer was efficient during his two scoreless inning of work, needing only 22 pitches. Yusmeiro Petit retired the side in the third before allowing a run in the fourth. Sean Burnett, Nick Masset and Burke Badenhop each tossed a scoreless inning of relief to continue the Nationals' strong bullpen work early this spring, though Taylor Jordan was roughed up for three runs in the eighth.

Need to know: We saw a glimpse of the Nationals' more aggressive approach on the bases during Wednesday's 6-2 win over the Rays, and we saw even more of it today. Four different runners broke from first base on the pitch in the first inning alone, including Harper (who stole second with ease). New manager Dusty Baker and new first base coach Davey Lopes want this team to push things on the bases. If these first two Grapefruit League games are a sign of things to come, this lineup is going to have a very different look in 2016.

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

VIERA, Fla. - This time, Max Scherzer gave up a hit to the Mets. But only one.

In his first Grapefruit League outing of the spring, against an opponent he no-hit in his last start of 2015, Scherzer got his proverbial work in this afternoon, tossing two scoreless innings at Space Coast Stadium.

The stakes weren't particularly high, not on March 3 in front of a few thousand fans. But Scherzer accomplished what he wanted to in his first appearance this spring against another club.

"Good work," he said. "I got my work in. I was able to go up and down the checklist."

Max Scherzer red throwing home.jpgScherzer, who threw one inning in an intrasquad game earlier this week, needed only 22 pitches (14 strikes) to compete two frames against the Mets. He allowed one hit (Michael Conforto's two-out single to left in the top of the first), didn't walk anybody and ended his afternoon by striking out Eric Campbell.

There wasn't a whole lot of opportunity for self-evaluation in an outing so brief, but Scherzer did take something out of one scenario he wound up facing: a long layoff between his two innings after the Nationals busted out for four runs in the bottom of the first.

"That was a good simulation for what it's like in the season," he said. "When you have those long innings, you have to go back out there and still collect outs. That can be a tough task at times, when you kind of lose your momentum, lose your rhythm, to go back out there and continue to fill up the zones. So the fact I didn't walk anybody today, that's a good sign."

The last time he took the mound against another opponent, of course, was October 3, when he tossed his second no-hitter of the season, shutting down the Mets at Citi Field. The lineup he faced this afternoon didn't quite resemble New York's "A" group, with Conforto the only real headliner who made the trip from Port St. Lucie.

Scherzer, though, knows he may face the Mets again this spring and certainly will face them several times this season.

So does he make sure to hold back and not show his entire repertoire in a game like this?

"Oh, of course," he said. "I know some of those guys I'm going to see during the year. So I'm just going to keep it vanilla. There's no reason to show them the chocolate, the strawberry, all the other flavors."

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