He can only hope this season will play out in a similar fashion after he served up a homer to the very first batter he faced tonight in his spring debut.
Taking the ball for the Nationals’ Grapefruit League opener against the Astros, Scherzer surrendered a towering homer over the center field wall to leadoff hitter Jake Marisnick, leaving some in the crowd at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches gasping in surprise.
Though that represented the only run he allowed in his two innings of work tonight, Scherzer labored throughout his start. He needed 44 pitches (25 strikes) to record his predetermined limit of six outs, surrendering three hits and a walk, and he threw first-pitch strikes to only three of the nine batters he faced.
The good news: Anyone who believes this will have any bearing on his 2019 regular season performance hasn’t paid attention to recent history.
Scherzer endured through a rocky spring one year ago. In addition to the first-inning home run he served up to Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson in his 2018 debut, he also allowed five more homers and posted a 4.15 ERA over 26 total spring training innings.
He of course proceeded to finish second to Jacob deGrom in National League Cy Young Award voting.
Scherzer, who did strike out three batters (all on offspeed pitches), departed with the game tied, 1-1, thanks to a clutch hit from the guy who may now become the focal point of the Nats lineup.
Juan Soto, in his first-ever Grapefruit League at-bat as a participant in big-league camp, sent the very first pitch he saw up the middle for an RBI single in the bottom of the first. The 20-year-old’s hit brought home Adam Eaton, who led off the inning by singling to right and then stealing second.
Joe Ross was the first man out of the Nationals bullpen and tossed two scoreless innings, pitching around a two-out walk and single to emerge unscathed in the third before retiring the side in the fourth. The right-hander’s fastball topped out at 92 mph.
Update: Though Anthony Rendon launched a solo homer off the fantastically named Cy Sneed to give the Nats a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth, the Astros have stormed back against a couple of pitchers trying to make comebacks to the majors after long layoffs. Aaron Barrett, appearing in a big-league game for the first time since 2015, gave up two runs on three hits in the top of the fifth. Barrett, who had Tommy John surgery and then broke his arm during the final stages of his rehab, started out with a 91-mph fastball but dropped into the high 80s as the inning progressed. Henderson Álvarez, meanwhile, was flashing a 95-mph fastball in the top of the sixth, but that didn’t produce positive results. The right-hander, trying to come back after two shoulder injuries, served up a three-run homer to Nick Tanielu, giving Houston a 6-2 lead.
Update II: Carter Kieboom may get more attention this spring, but Spencer Kieboom is here in camp as well. And big brother just made a statement on opening night, launching a three-run homer over the grassy berm in left field in the bottom of the sixth. That blast brought the Nationals back to within a run at 6-5, and surely will be a topic of discussion in the Kieboom household later tonight.
Update III: Adrian Sanchez scored to tie the game at 6-6 on a grounder off the bat of Spencer Kieboom that would have been a double play ball had Joshua Rojas not yanked the relay throw to first, sending Kieboom to second.
Final update: Carter Kieboom drew a base on balls from Brendan McCurry to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Hunter Jones bunted him over to second, and Kieboom later scored the game-winner on Sanchez’s double. Final score: Nationals 7, Astros 6.