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Max Scherzer and the Nationals send the Mets back to the cellar

The Mets were unable to overcome the Nationals’ early lead.

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets dropped the first game of four games against the Nationals in their final series before the All-Star Break. With Max Scherzer being the starting pitcher, the Mets are lucky they had as much offense as they did. He had not faced the Mets this season until last night, but in the 97 innings he pitched against them in his career, Scherzer owned a 2.23 ERA.

The Nationals wasted no time getting to work against Steven Matz in the first inning. The second batter of the game, Juan Soto, singled and then Anthony Rendon hit a first-pitch home run to put Washington up 2-0 before many fans even got to their seats. But, Matz quickly recovered and set the next two batters down on ground balls.

Much like Washington, the Mets’ third batter of the game did some damage against the opposing starter. After an Asdrubal Cabrera double, Jose Bautista brought him home with a single. Bautista was called out at second base after a review on a throw from Michael A. Taylor, who had just bobbled the ball.

In the top of the second, Matz found himself in a jam after giving up singles to Daniel Murphy and Matt Wieters to put men on first and second with only one out. After a sacrifice bunt by Scherzer, Matz was able to get Trea Turner to fly out to right field to put an end to the threat.

Matz ran into a familiar problem in the third inning when Anthony Rendon went yard again, this time putting Washington up 3-1. Other than two unfortunate pitches to Rendon, Steven Matz didn’t really have a bad night. In the night, he pitched himself out of a couple sticky situations and limited the non-Rendon hitters in the lineup to six hits in six-plus innings.

In the fourth inning, much like Washington, the man who scored the team’s first run of the game scored the next. Jose Bautista drove in another run on a solo home run, his seventh of the year and fifth as a Met.

Steven Matz found himself in trouble again in the sixth inning. Following a pair of walks to Daniel Murphy and the player of the week, Mark Reynolds, Matz had men on first and second with two outs and Scherzer coming up. Things became extremely dicey when Scherzer reached base and brought up Trea Turner with the bases loaded. After two pitches, Matz got Turner to pop out to Wilmer Flores at third to end the inning.

Unfortunately, the seventh inning didn’t have such a happy ending. After Matz came out of the game, Tim Peterson came in, gave up a single to Rendon, and then immediately left. Jerry Blevins was called in to face Bryce Harper and things went about as well as you expected. Harper deposited the ball into the right field seats and gave the Nats a lead that they’d never surrender.

The Mets hit two more home runs before the end of the game, but they weren’t enough to close the gap as both were solo shots. Kevin Plawecki hit his in the bottom of the seventh and Asdrubal Cabrera matched him in the last half of the next inning.

The Mets tried to make a comeback one last time in the bottom of the ninth, but that too came up short. A Kevin Plawecki single got things started off nicely, but Jose Reyes and his .473 OPS grounded into a fielder’s choice. Amed Rosario, who was benched in favor of Reyes for whatever reason, grounded into a double play to end the game and close the Nationals 5-4 win.

The Mets and Nationals are back at it again tomorrow night for the second game of this four-game set as the returning Noah Syndergaard takes on Tanner Roark and his fiery bosoms.

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Win Probability Added

What’s WPA?

Big winners: Jose Bautista, +20.7% WPA, Kevin Plawecki, +14.0% WPA, Michael Conforto, +11.5% WPA, Asdrubal Cabrera, +11.0% WPA
Big losers: Wilmer Flores, -21.5% WPA, Amed Rosario, -20.0% WPA, Jerry Blevins, -18.0% WPA, Jose Reyes, -16.0% WPA, Matt den Dekker, -14.5% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Kevin Plawecki’s ninth inning single, +13.3% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Amed Rosario’s game-ending double play, -20.0% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -16.8% WPA
Total batter WPA: -33.2% WPA
GWRBI!: Bryce Harper