No surprise here: Max Scherzer will have the ball in his hands when he begins the final season of his seven-year, $210 million contract with the Washington Nationals.
Scherzer will make his Nationals-record sixth opening day start April 1, facing the New York Mets in Washington. It’ll be a rematch of an exhibition mound matchup Sunday, when Scherzer allowed two homers and threw 90 pitches in five innings of a 6-2 loss to the Mets and starter Jacob deGrom in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“He’s the guy. He’s the guy that gets everything started for us,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said in explaining his decision to use Scherzer in Game 1 — which, of course, was the expected outcome.
“He competes. You know what we’re going to get from him,” Martinez said. “He loves opening day. So he’s a guy we want to follow opening day.”
It’s quite a way to get things going for Major League Baseball: three-time Cy Young Award winner Scherzer against two-time honoree deGrom.
As for the rest of his rotation, Martinez said he and new pitching coach Jim Hickey still need to figure out how to slot their other starters. There’s 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and lefties Jon Lester and Patrick Corbin; the fifth starter is expected to be Joe Ross, who opted out of last season because of coronavirus concerns.
On Sunday, Scherzer allowed six hits and four earned runs, with a solo shot by Michael Conforto in the fourth and a two-run homer by Francisco Lindor in the fifth. Another run scored on a wild pitch.
Scherzer wasn’t too concerned by the results, of course. He said he was working on things, including trying a slide-step.
“You’re trying to get a read on their swings, how they’re trying to swing the bat, and realize they’re probably going to make adjustments, too,” said Scherzer, whose last outing before the games matter will come Saturday in a “B” game against the Houston Astros. “Just go at it, get your work in and get out of there. I’m just trying to get my pitches in.”
He also got an at-bat in. The original lineup released by Washington before the game featured a designated hitter; that was revised to include Scherzer batting for himself.
DeGrom struck him out, part of his 4 2/3 scoreless innings with three hits and five Ks.
“I haven’t been in the box in so long — probably a year, year-and-a-half — and then the first pitch is 100 (mph),” Scherzer said, then added with a laugh: “So welcome to the big leagues.”
Nationals reliever Tanner Rainey made his spring debut after dealing with a muscle strain near his collarbone. After striking out the first batter he faced, Pete Alonso, Rainey went walk-walk-walk and was done for the day.
Rainey said he still needs to work through some issues with where his arm is when he lands on his front foot.
“Obviously, timing wasn’t there. Not making the pitches I wanted to,” he said. “Best thing I can take from (it) is (I’m) healthy, pain-free.”
METS 6, NATIONALS 2
DeGrom kept up his strong spring. Through 13 2/3 innings, he’s struck out 21 and has an 0.66 ERA. Edwin Diaz and Dellin Betances each worked an inning of relief, retiring the side in order with a strikeout. Michael Conforto and Francisco Lindor homered.
PADRES 4, ANGELS 1
Shohei Ohtani started and batted leadoff, the first time he has pitched and hit for himself in a spring training or regular-season game with Los Angeles. He went 2 for 2 with a walk, raising his exhibition batting average to .636. On the mound, he allowed one run and two hits in four innings, striking out five.
Angels slugger Albert Pujols hit his first home run.
Blake Snell worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings in the start for San Diego, giving up two hits, walking two and striking out three. Mark Melancon worked 1 2/3 innings of one-hit relief, striking out two. Brian O’Grady hit a leadoff triple in the first.
MARINERS 3, BREWERS 1
Seattle starter James Paxton struck out eight in 4 1/3 innings, allowing a run on two hits and a pair of walks. Keynan Middleton struck out the side in an inning of relief. Top outfield prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez each hit their second home run.
Milwaukee starter Freddy Peralta scattered five hits over 4 2/3 innings, allowing a run and striking out five.
YANKEES 8, BLUE JAYS 3
Gerritt Cole struck out eight in five innings, allowing one run in his fourth spring start for New York. Thairo Estrada homered.
Tanner Roark struck out Brett Gardner to start the game, then gave up four runs on four hits and a walk and was pulled for a reliever. Roark came back to work the next two innings and struggled. Marcus Semien homered off Cole and Teoscar Hernández homered later.
INDIANS 7, RANGERS 2
Cy Young winner Shane Bieber struck out six in four scoreless innings and César Hernández homered and drove in four runs. Franmil Reyes added a two-run homer for Cleveland.
Bieber allowed two hits and had command of all his pitches while gearing up for his opening day start at Detroit on April 1. The right-hander will have one more outing in spring training.
Hernández hit a two-run double as the Indians scored three unearned runs in the second off Texas starter Taylor Hearn. Hernández’s first homer this spring made it 7-0 in the sixth.
GIANTS 10, DODGERS 4
Looking to stage a comeback after not playing in the majors since 2016, Scott Kazmir started for San Francisco and allowed two hits, including Corey Seager’s home run, while striking out four of the six batters he retired. The 37-year-old lefty had pitched two innings earlier in spring training, giving up two runs.
Evan Longoria hit his fourth home run and Mike Yastrzemski hit his second. Zack Littell and James Sherfy each struck out the side in an inning of relief. Chadwick Tromp hit a grand slam in the seventh for the Giants.
Tony Gonsolin struck out five over 4 1/3 innings in the start for the Dodgers, allowing three runs.
CUBS 11, REDS 6
David Bote homered twice and drove in five runs for Chicago. Eric Sogard hit and leadoff home run and Jake Marisnick also connected. Starter Alec Mills worked 4 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on six hits.
Kyle Farmer homered, doubled and singled for Cincinnati. Tyler Mahle gave up four hits in 3 2/3 innings, but three of them were home runs.
ROYALS 6, ROCKIES 1
Colorado starter Antonio Senzatela went 3 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits. Lucas Gilbreath struck out the side in the eighth. Josh Fuentes homered and singled.
Jackson Kowar made his fifth appearance and second start for the Royals, turning in three scoreless innings. Jorge Soler hit his fourth home run and Ryan O’Hearn tripled. Whit Merrifield had two hits.
The Royals signed six-time All-Star catcher Salvador Pérez to the richest contract in club history, a four-year, $82 million deal that begins in 2022. The five-time Gold Glove winner turns 31 in May. He was the World Series MVP in 2015 when the club broke its 30-year title drought, and is coming off a season in which he hit .333 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs.
DIAMONDBACKS 4, WHITE SOX 4 (9 INNINGS)
Arizona starter Taylor Clarke worked four scoreless innings. allowing just two hits. Joe Mantiply struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth. Nick Ahmed hit a two-run homer.
Carlos Rodón yielded just one hit over his four-inning start for the White Sox, striking out five. Reynaldo López worked three innings in relief and gave up four runs on six hits and a pair of walks. Felix Paulino struck out the side in the ninth.
PIRATES 9, RED SOX 4
Wil Crowe made his first start for Pittsburgh, working 3 2/3 innings, giving up a run and four hits. Bryan Reynolds hit a two-run homer.
Boston starter Nick Pivetta was touched for six runs on six hits and three walks in four innings.
TWINS 12, ORIOLES 7
J.A. Happ worked the first three innings for Minnesota and allowed four runs and six hits. J.T. Riddle, Kyle Garlick and Willians Astudillo homered in the third inning, and Jorge Polanco, Caleb Hamilton and Trevor Larnach also connected.
Jorge López started for Baltimore and gave up three homers in 3 2/3 innings. Pedro Severino and Ryan Mountcastle homered for the Orioles.
TIGERS 5, PHILLIES 3
Akil Baddoo and Niko Goodrum each homered for Detroit. Starter Matt Manning allowed two runs on three hits in two innings and Michael Fulmer pitched three scoreless innings, giving up one hit.
Philadelphia catcher J.T. Realmuto was scheduled to make his spring debut after being sidelined by a broken right thumb, but was a late scratch by manager Joe Girardi because of “general soreness” after playing a simulated game Saturday. Chase Anderson gave up four runs and struck out five over his 3 2/3-inning start.
BRAVES 11, RAYS 1
Atlanta starter Max Fried gave up three hits and struck out five over six innings. Dansby Swanson hit his first spring homer and Ehire Adrianza doubled twice.
Ryan Yarbrough worked four innings in the start for the Rays, allowing five runs and five hits and striking out four. Ryan Boldt, a former second-round pick who missed the 2019 season with Tommy John surgery and didn’t play last year when the virus wiped out the minor league schedule, hit his second home run of the spring, going deep off Fried.
MARLINS 4, ASTROS 2
Miami starter Trevor Rogers began with four hitless inning and struck out six, then allowed a bunt single and a homer by Jeremy Pena in the fifth. Jazz Chisholm hit his third home run.
Zack Greinke gave up one earned run on five hits in 4 1/3 innings for Houston. Jeremy Peña homered.