- Associated Press - Thursday, April 5, 2018

Michael Conforto came off the disabled list to hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer off Stephen Strasburg, Yoenis Cespedes also went deep against the ace, and Jay Bruce tacked on an insurance grand slam, leading the New York Mets to a 8-2 victory over Washington in the Nationals’ home opener Thursday.

Jacob deGrom (2-0) wiggled out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam to finish his six-inning outing with a flourish. After walking Bryce Harper to fill the bags, deGrom got Ryan Zimmerman to fly out to shallow right and Howie Kendrick to line out to shortstop, before Trea Turner looked at a 94 mph fastball for strike three. Turner argued and was ejected for the first time in the majors.

Zimmerman, who only got two at-bats in spring training, went 0 for 4 on Thursday and is 3 for 22 (.136) with six strikeouts this season.

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The Mets improved to an NL East-leading 5-1, while the two-time reigning division champion Nationals have lost three in a row after a 4-0 start under rookie manager Dave Martinez.

Conforto hadn’t appeared in the regular season since grabbing his left shoulder in pain last August; he had surgery the following month. On Thursday, when new Mets manager Mickey Callaway was asked about throwing the center fielder in against one of the NL’s premier pitchers instead of giving him a minor league rehab assignment, this was the reply: “He wanted Strasburg.”

Well, then.

Conforto struck out on three pitches leading off the game, then grounded into a double play in the third inning. And his third AB? With two outs in the fifth, he drove a 97 mph pitch out to left. It was originally ruled that the ball remained in the field of play, so Conforto stopped at second; after a replay review, it was changed to a homer.

Strasburg (1-1) gave up four runs in six eventful innings. He balked in a run in the second, then allowed Cespedes’ solo shot that tied it 2-2 in the fourth.

Bruce’s sixth career grand slam, and first homer of 2018, came off Brandon Kintzler in the seventh.

A sellout crowd of 42,477 braved a first-pitch temperature of 42 degrees just past 1 p.m.

Nationals left fielder Adam Eaton doubled in the first, then walked in his second plate appearance - scoring both times - before being replaced after the fifth inning by Brian Goodwin. Eaton came around all the way from first on Anthony Rendon’s double in the third, sliding home on his belly. Eaton stayed down in the dirt for an extra moment or two and slapped his palms on the ground.

After returning from a torn ligament in his left knee that ended his 2017 season in April, Eaton earned NL Player of the Week honors to open 2018.


Nationals GM Mike Rizzo was given a two-year contract extension, tying him to the team through 2020. “This is a common-sense move that had to get done,” two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said.


For the second time in seven games as a big league skipper, Martinez batted his pitcher eighth, this time slotting Strasburg in front of CF Michael A. Taylor. “For me, it was more about batting Michael ninth and turning the lineup over. If we can get Michael on base in front of those other guys, we can have a big inning,” Martinez said.


Mets: To make room for Conforto, activated off the DL before the game, the Mets optioned INF Phillip Evans to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Nationals: C Matt Wieters, on the DL since Monday with a strained left oblique, is “doing a lot better,” Martinez said. “My understanding is that he feels really good and it shouldn’t take him that long to come back.”


After Friday’s day off, a pair of lefties are slated to match up Saturday in the second game of this series, with Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.50 ERA) facing New York’s Steven Matz (0-1, 6.75). The weather could be a problem, though: The forecast calls for snow - yes, snow, on April 7.


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