Dan's Dugout: Mets Drop Exhibition Twinbill • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Mets Drop Exhibition Twinbill


WEST PALM BEACH, FL – It’s a good thing for the New York Mets that Grapefruit League games don’t count.

The denizens of Flushing were flushed twice Tuesday, first by the World Champion Houston Astros in Port St. Lucie, then by the defending National League East champion Washington Nationals in a night game played under temperatures that were frigid for Florida.

Noah Syndergaard had a tough day Tuesday

Mets ace Noah Syndergaard was uncharacteristically wild in the day game, paving the way for a 6-1 Houston romp.

But Zack Wheeler was worse against Washington, which raked him for five runs on seven hits during his shaky four-inning stint. The Nationals had no trouble nailing down a 7-4 verdict.

Max Scherzer, who started the night game for the Nats, showed why he has three Cy Young Awards on his trophy shelf. Throwing strikes with both his fastball and curve, the wily righthander had his way with the Mets from the first inning on.

Max Scherzer was in midseason form against the Mets Tuesday night

Scherzer didn’t have to face sluggers Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, or Adrian Gonzalez, who didn’t join the traveling squad that visited the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. But it probably wouldn’t have mattered.

An All-Star five years in a row, he and Randy Johnson are the only pitchers in baseball history to record a 20-strikeout game and also throw at least one no-hitter (Scherzer had two in 2015 alone, making him the fifth pitcher ever to do that).

Washington looks ready for a third straight title run, which would give the team five NL East crowns in seven seasons. The Nats occupied the top rung of the division for all but four days last year, ending with a 20-game margin over second-place Miami. Thanks in part to a club-record 215 home runs, the team finished 97-65, second to Los Angeles in the National League.

The Nats showed Tuesday night how powerful their attack can be even when ex-Met Daniel Murphy isn’t in the lineup. They jumped on Wheeler, whose control was wobbly, for three first-inning runs and could have gotten more. Washington won all five of its games against New York last spring and have won five more in a row this year, with one left to play.

Zack Wheeler was walloped by the Washington Nationals
Credit: Jason Schott

New hitting coach Kevin Long, formerly with the Mets and Yankees, likes what he sees. So does rookie manager Dave Martinez, the former major-league outfielder who succeeded Dusty Baker in the Washington dugout. Martinez most recently was the right-hand man for Cubs manager Joe Maddon, considered the most creative pilot in the majors.

Perhaps the main concern for the Nats this year is keeping Bryce Harper happy. The superstar outfielder heads this fall’s prospective free agent class and will require a long-term megabucks deal to remain in Washington red.

The Nats and Astros share Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Credit: Dan Schlossberg

There may be no joy in Mudville but there’s plenty in Palm Beach County, where the Nats will play all but six of their 31 games this spring. The team has only two road games left, one to play Detroit in Lakeland (170 miles away) and another to face the Mets in Port St. Lucie (50 miles from West Palm).

Washington and Houston share Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, a handsome facility that opened last spring.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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