NEW YORK -- The conversation was simple, and so was the message.
Be ready to hit, Mets hitting coach Kevin Long told Curtis Granderson. Match Max Scherzer's intensity, and be ready to hit.
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Granderson was ready. He walked up to the plate against the Nationals' star right-hander and hit the first pitch he saw over the right-field fence. He gave the Mets the only run they would really need in what became a 2-0 win Tuesday night.
"He throws strikes with his fastball, and he tends to start the game with a fastball," Granderson said. "I was just trying to get a good pitch."
Scherzer throws plenty of fastballs, and not all of them are hittable -- as the Mets found out in their last meeting against Scherzer on Oct. 3, when they were no-hit. Good Major League hitters, however, miss plenty of them, as proven by his 20-strikeout masterpiece last Wednesday against the Tigers and even by his 10 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings Tuesday.
Granderson got one to hit, and he didn't miss.
It was a huge hit for Granderson, who had struggled through a 7-for-53 (.132) start to May, with three walks and 18 strikeouts. It was a bigger hit for the Mets, who went 4-7 on a long trip out west, and who began this week's showdown series 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Nationals.
They got to the park Tuesday and found they'd be without Lucas Duda, out with back stiffness. They found out during batting practice they'd also be without David Wright, who had a rough day in his fight with a chronic back condition.
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Just as he often did early last season, when the Mets had to field even shorter lineups, Granderson stepped up.
"He saw what happened before the game," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I'm sure he said to himself, 'I've got to get it going.'"
Granderson is the type of hitter who can get it going, who can change a game when the game has barely begun. He's hit the first pitch of a game for a home run twice this season, and he's homered to start the first inning 38 times in his career.
Among active players, only Jimmy Rollins has done it more.
Granderson's good game Tuesday continued after the first inning. He walked against Scherzer in the third and the fifth, and he singled off left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero in the eighth.
The Mets weren't able to convert any of those into runs, scoring after the first only when Michael Conforto homered with two out and the bases empty in the third.
But the Mets could hope this was the start of something more for their leadoff hitter.
"We talk about it," Collins said. "When he gets on a lot, we score a lot. When we score, we win."
They weren't going to score a lot against Scherzer, but the way Noah Syndergaard pitched, they didn't need a lot. They did need something, and it didn't hurt to get it right away.
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Be ready, Long told Granderson.
Right from the first pitch, he was ready.