The New York Mets can take solace in the fact that, as much as they have struggled through early parts of the 2019 season, they have not looked nearly as bad as the Washington Nationals. The Mets were able to take advantage of their struggling division counterparts and cruised to an easy victory at Nationals Park in the series opener.
New York got all the offense it would need in the first inning, thanks in large part to the magic of instant replay. After Amed Rosario picked up a one-out single against Nationals starter Jeremy Hellickson—the single extended Rosario’s hitting streak to eight games and his road hitting streak to 14 games—Robinson Cano hit what looked like an inning-ending double play. Cano immediately signaled to Mickey Callaway to ask him to review the call, and replay showed that Nationals first baseman Gerardo Parra never had the ball in his glove. Umpires correctly overturned their mistake, which put Cano back on first base.
Pete Alonso followed with a slow roller up the middle that found its way into center field, putting runners on first and second base with two outs. Michael Conforto worked a walk to bring up Wilson Ramos, whose offense has mostly been noticeably absent for much of this season, with the bases loaded. Hellickson hung a 1-0 changeup to Ramos, who drove the pitch over the left field wall for his second home run as a Met and his first grand slam since September 2017.
The four runs were more than enough offensive support for Noah Syndergaard, who brought his A-game to Washington D.C. and earned his first ever win at Nationals Park. Syndergaard was brilliant and faced one batter over the minimum through the first five innings. He hit Adam Eaton to lead off the game but quickly erased him by inducing a ground ball double play from Victor Robles. Anthony Rendon walked to begin the second inning, but Syndergaard recovered to retire the next 12 Nationals batters.
After a rough first inning, Hellickson settled down and kept the Mets off the board while allowing two hits and two walks over the next four frames. The offense came alive again in the sixth, as Conforto led off with a single and Ramos walked to put runners on first and second with nobody out. At that point, Dave Martinez had seen enough and pulled Hellickson after 75 pitches.
Martinez turned to left-hander Matt Grace, who promptly gave up a double to Brandon Nimmo that sailed over Robles’s glove in center field. With a chance to do more damage with runners in scoring position and nobody out, Todd Frazier grounded out to third base and Syndergaard struck out. Jeff McNeil hit a hard liner to right field, but it was caught by Eaton to end the inning.
Syndergaard finally faltered a bit in the sixth, as Wilmer Difo broke up the no-hitter by floating the first pitch he saw into right field for the Nationals’ first hit of the game. After pinch hitter Adrian Sanchez singled, the quick-footed Eaton hit a sharp grounder to Amed Rosario, who was able to turn the 6-6-3 double play with some help from an impressive Alonso scoop at first base. With two outs, Syndergaard surrendered a home run to Robles, which brought the Nationals to within three runs. It was Robles’s seventh home run of 2019, and his third off the Mets’ pitcher. Syndergaard recovered to strike out Juan Soto to end the inning.
After allowing a lead-off single to Rendon in the seventh, Syndergaard retired the last six batters he faced to complete his eight strong innings of work. Thor finished with 102 pitches—64 strikes, 38 strikes—and struck out six while walking one. Five of his six strikeouts came on a called third strike, which is something that Syndergaard has mostly been unable to do this season and comes as a welcome sign for his team.
The Mets added an insurance run in the ninth to put the game out of reach. With one out, Callaway called on Dominic Smith to pinch hit for Syndergaard. After working the count to 3-0, Smith swung and drove a pitch well beyond the center field wall for his first home run of 2019. With the lead up to four runs, Callaway sat Edwin Diaz down in the bullpen and instead turned to Seth Lugo. Lugo worked around a two-out Rendon double and struck out the side to extend his scoreless inning streak to 12.1 innings.
With the win, the Mets evened out their record at 20-20 and gained a game on the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves, both of whom lost at home. The loss also dropped the Nationals to a season-worst nine games under .500. The Mets will look for a repeat on Wednesday night, as Wilmer Font takes the mound for his second start as a Met in place of the injured Jason Vargas. Font will be opposed by Patrick Corbin, who is coming off his best start of 2019.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Wilson Ramos, 29.5% WPA, Noah Syndergaard, 25.1% WPA
Big losers: None
Total pitcher WPA: 26.9% WPA
Total batter WPA: 23.1% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Wilson Ramos first inning grand slam, 29.0% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Victor Robles sixth inning two-run home run, -6.9% WPA