An opening day thrice postponed was as forgettable as the weather was dreary.
The Nationals kicked off their season Thursday with a 5-1 loss to the Mets in an anticlimactic opening day. Aside from a Juan Soto solo home run, Washington’s offense couldn’t get off the ground, while New York tallied 12 hits and scored runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
The vibe inside Nationals Park felt more like a typical April game than a highly anticipated opening day contest. The night’s festivities were dampened by a depressed turnout likely caused by the chilly, rainy weather. Then, as the game soured for the Nationals in the sixth, fans headed for the gates, and the New York faithful took advantage with “Let’s go Mets” chants.
The biggest instance of life from the fans in attendance — reported by the team at 35,052 — was the standing ovation they gave former Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer after the tribute video that played prior to the start of the game.
Scherzer, now a New York Met, was one of the best pitchers in baseball during his six and a half seasons in D.C., making six All-Star Games, winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2016 and 2017 and leading the Nationals to a World Series title in 2019. He was shipped off to the Dodgers at last year’s trade deadline and then signed a three-year, $130 million contract with the Mets before the lockout. The 37-year-old will make his season debut and his return to the mound at Nationals Park on Friday.
“A lot of good memories here,” Scherzer said before the game. “There will always be good memories here. But nothing lasts forever.”
The path to even have opening day Thursday at Nationals Park wasn’t an easy one.
The first postponement came late in the winter, when a contentious 99-day lockout forced Major League Baseball to reschedule the first week of games. Then the game was delayed twice due to weather — once on Wednesday to push the contest back three hours and again on Thursday, just as some fans entered the ballpark, for 1 hour, 16 minutes to allow the rain to subside.
Losing pitcher Patrick Corbin tossed four excellent innings, aided by two highlight-reel defensive plays by shortstop Alcides Escobar, but the southpaw ran into trouble in the fifth. An inning after Escobar’s relay throw nabbed Pete Alonso trying to score from first on a double, Corbin allowed the first four batters of the fifth to reach base before exiting. Victor Arano cleaned up Corbin’s mess, but two Mets runners still crossed the plate in the inning.
Overall, the outing was a tiny step in the right direction for Corbin, who struggled last season to the tune of a National League-worst 16 losses and a 5.82 earned-run average.
Reliever Austin Voth was tagged for two more runs in the sixth, and Andres Machado allowed another run in the seventh.
The lone bright spot for Washington’s offense was Soto’s long ball in the sixth. The smash to the second deck in right field was the 99th home run of Soto’s young career.
The Nationals are now 8-10 on opening day since the franchise moved to the District.
Five different Mets players tallied an RBI in the win — Starling Marte, Francisco Lindor, Mark Canha, Jeff McNeil and James McCann. Tylor Megill threw five scoreless innings to record the win. Buck Showalter earned his first victory as manager of the Mets.
In other Nationals news Thursday, manager Dave Martinez told reporters that once-dominant relief pitcher Will Harris recently had surgery on his right pectoral and is out several weeks. Harris, who pitched only six innings last season due to thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, will begin throwing in three to four weeks, Martinez said. He is still rehabbing in West Palm Beach, Florida, along with the team’s other injured players, including utility infielder Ehire Adrianza (strained quadriceps) and ace Stephen Strasburg (recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery).