NEW YORK — Starting for the third time in his club’s first eight games, Washington ace Max Scherzer earned his first win in the least effective outing of the three.
Anthony Rendon backed him with a three-run homer, going deep for the fourth time in five games, and the Nationals were helped by 12 walks in a 12-9 win over the New York Mets on Sunday.
Scherzer (1-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts, no walks and two hit batters, and he also singled in the game’s first run. He lost his opening two starts for the first time in his big league career, to the Mets and Philadelphia, though he did go 0-3 over his first six starts in 2009.
Despite being struck on the right leg by a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Keon Broxton in the fifth inning, Scherzer recovered to make the play and remained in to face 10 more batters.
“It was fine during the game, was able to just kind of keep it moving so it didn’t tighten up,” Scherzer said, standing in front of his locker with his leg wrapped. “Once I came out of the game, once you lose the adrenaline, it tightened up pretty good. It kind of hurts to walk right now. but this is just a little bone bruise. I’ll be fine.”
Washington took two of three from their NL East rival.
“His leg got stiff there at the end so had to go get him out but Max being Max, he competed all day and he pitched unbelievable,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.
Washington opened a 12-1 lead by the seventh inning, when Rendon hit his fourth home run of the season, a drive off the facing of the second deck in left-center. Kurt Suzuki had two hits and two RBIs. Aside from Scherzer, every Nationals starter walked at least once.
Zack Wheeler (0-1) struggled to command his fastball and gave up seven runs, four hits and a career-high seven walks in 4 2/3 innings, throwing strikes on just 51 of 103 pitches.
“Just an embarrassing day for me,” Wheeler said.
Reliever Tim Peterson threw a run-scoring wild pitch to his first batter and walked five, including one with the bases loaded. Mets pitchers had not walked 12 in a nine-inning game since March 31, 2003, on opening day against the Chicago Cubs.
“The command, the control, just too many walks,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said.
Washington took a 5-0 lead in the second, which included Victor Robles’ RBI single, Adam Eaton’s two-run double and Howie Kendrick’s sacrifice fly, his first RBI since May 13. Kendrick returned Saturday from a ruptured right Achilles’ tendon sustained last May 19.
Mired in a 2-for-27 slump, Brandon Nimmo doubled in a run off of Scherzer in the seventh.
“You could tell he was tired, he was having a little bit more trouble commanding in the zone,” Nimmo said. “That’s not the Scherzer you’re going to face the first time you go out there.”
Rookie Pete Alonso hit a three-run homer against Matt Grace later in the inning, the rookie’s third home run this season. He is the third player since at least 1908 with nine extra-base hits in his first nine games, joining Trevor Story and Alvin Davis.
The Nationals were the first team to score at least 12 runs on eight hits or fewer since Toronto needed just eight hits to beat Detroit 12-6 on May 24, 1999.
Nationals reliever Trevor Rosenthal hit a batter, threw two wild pitches and issued a walk in the eighth. Attempting to come back from Tommy John surgery, the former All-Star closer has not retired any of the nine batters he’s faced this season, allowing seven runs.
“I’ve been super encouraged because of how good I feel but that’s what makes it more frustrating, because I know it’s there,” Rosenthal said. “My stuff’s there. I feel better than ever, really, but the results aren’t happening so I definitely want to figure it out.”
Washington recalled RHP Joe Ross from Triple-A Fresno and optioned INF Adrian Sanchez to Double-A Harrisburg. Usually a starter, Ross got just one out in the ninth before giving up Michael Conforto’s three-run homer. According to Martinez, Ross will be used in relief to aid an ineffective bullpen that had a major league-worst 10.02 ERA entering Sunday.
Nationals: CF Michael A. Taylor (sprained right knee and hip) went 1 for 5 Sunday for Harrisburg as the designated hitter.
Mets: C Travis d’Arnaud (Tommy John surgery) was reinstated from the 10-day IL, pinch hit in the seventh and moved behind the plate in his first major league appearance since April 8 last year. He grounded out and flied out.
Nationals: RHP Anibal Sanchez (0-0, 9.00 ERA) faces RHP Vince Velasquez (0-0, 0.00) Monday night as Washington opens a three-game series at Philadelphia.
Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (2-0), who has not allowed a run in 13 innings this season, is scheduled to start Tuesday’s series opener against Minnesota and RHP Kyle Gibson (0-0, 9.64).
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