WASHINGTON — Sporting a new beard and relieved to have his contract extension completed, Jacob deGrom, the Mets’ ace and the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, commenced his encore to a sensational 2018 season on opening day against the Nationals.
It was a fresh start. The Mets’ offense, for a change, afforded him a lead. Robinson Cano, the second baseman who was brought in to energize a stagnant lineup, stroked a home run to left-center field in the top of the first inning.
DeGrom followed with filthy sliders and fastballs that reached as high as 98 miles per hour. That speed came while pitching against his counterpart, Max Scherzer, the runner-up in last season’s N.L. Cy Young voting.
The game was billed as a scintillating duel, and both men looked primed for another year of dominant pitching. DeGrom, who agreed to a five-year extension worth $137.5 million on Tuesday, emerged as the victor once more, as the Mets won, 2-0.
Closer Edwin Diaz, who was acquired in the trade that included Cano, collected his first save by recording all three outs in the ninth inning.
The difference from last year was that deGrom was backed by a lineup that featured Cano, who also drove in a run on a single in the eighth inning.
DeGrom, 30, lasted six innings. He threw 93 pitches, yielded five hits and recorded 10 strikeouts. Scherzer went seven and two-thirds innings, struck out 12 and was charged for both earned runs.
Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets’ new general manager, watched his off-season investments pay immediate dividends. Shortly after switching from life as an agent to management last fall, Van Wagenen traded for Cano, his former client. Cano, 36, impressed teammates, coaches and the front office with his effortless swings in Florida, and he maintained that momentum against the Nationals.
Cano came to deGrom’s aid in the field, as well. In the bottom of the third, Nationals center fielder Victor Robles stroked a double to left, and celebrated at second base with the motion of shooting an arrow into the sky. He advanced to third when right fielder Adam Eaton knocked a single. DeGrom took care of shortstop Trea Turner with a strikeout. The Nationals’ Anthony Rendon then chopped a ball to third baseman Jeff McNeil, who fielded it and threw to Cano at second to record one out.
Cano, alert to Robles failing to commit to staying at third or running for home, threw to catcher Wilson Ramos. Robles was then in a rundown. Ramos threw back to McNeil, who sprinted after Robles before tagging him for the out.
It was fundamental and flawless. Most important, it protected a lead on a day deGrom pitched.
For openers, it was a welcome display for the win-now Mets.
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