FAQ: Mets-Nats opener postponed

April 1st, 2021

The Mets-Nationals opener at Nationals Park on Thursday was postponed because of ongoing contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization. No makeup date was announced.

Two of the best pitchers in baseball -- Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer -- were set to face off in a National League East showdown.

When is the game and how can I watch it?

The game will not be made up on Friday, and Major League Baseball will continue to provide updates as available. 

The starting lineups

Nationals: The Nationals added power to protect Juan Soto in the order with the offseason acquisitions of Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber, and they saw a preview of their potential in Spring Training. Washington also took a long look at Victor Robles in the leadoff spot this spring. Even if Trea Turner bats first and Robles hits eighth, manager Dave Martinez views that as essentially two leadoff hitters who can bring speed and energy.

Projected lineup

Mets: This is the best and deepest lineup the Mets have featured in years, with Francisco Lindor joining a group that already included Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso and others. The Mets had several options for how to configure this unit, but no matter what they chose, they were going to have to place strong hitters lower than they’re accustomed. That means fifth for Smith and sixth for McNeil, who batted in that spot frequently during Spring Training.

Projected lineup

Who are the starting pitchers?

Nationals: Before the postponement, Scherzer was set to take the mound for the Nats on Opening Day for the sixth time in seven seasons. Scherzer is ready for his 14th season -- he built up to 90 pitches in his Spring Training finale, and he threw another 89 in a “B” game before the end of camp. In 23 career starts against the Mets, Scherzer is 12-5 with a 2.70 ERA.

Mets: When he takes the hill, deGrom will become the fourth pitcher in franchise history to start three consecutive Opening Days. Only Tom Seaver (1968-77) and Dwight Gooden (1988-91) posted longer streaks, and this would have marked four in a row for deGrom had a minor injury not prevented him from pitching the Mets’ opener in 2018. Two years ago on Opening Day in Washington, deGrom struck out 10 batters en route to a win over Scherzer and the Nats.

How will the bullpens line up after the starter?

Nationals: The Nats stacked their bullpen this offseason, and they are eyeing eight relievers on the Opening Day roster -- Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero, Kyle Finnegan, Erick Fedde, Austin Voth and Luis Avilán. Fedde and Voth, who contended for the fifth starter job, can pitch multiple innings. The Nationals also can get one-plus frames from Avilán and Suero. They are awaiting the return of Will Harris (see more below) to add to the late-innings mix with Hudson and Rainey. This winter, the Nationals signed Hand, the top free-agent reliever who led the Majors in saves last season, to be their closer.

Mets: The Mets added two key pieces to their relief mix this winter: right-hander Trevor May, who will serve as their first-choice setup man, and lefty Aaron Loup. Those two have supplanted right-handers Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances on the depth chart, after the veterans struggled both last summer and this spring. The Mets are without ace reliever Seth Lugo for the first month of the season as he rehabs from elbow surgery, but they’re hopeful that Edwin Díaz can extrapolate his 2020 gains over a full season in ’21. If deGrom pitches at least six innings in his first game back on the hill, the Mets will probably lean heavily on May, Loup, Díaz and Miguel Castro, a hard thrower who enjoyed the best spring of any Met.

Any injuries of note?

Nationals: Harris has not pitched since March 13, when he experienced numbness in his right fingers. He originally was diagnosed with a blood clot in his right arm by a doctor in West Palm Beach, Fla. Harris then traveled to St. Louis to get a second opinion from Dr. Robert Thompson, and a venogram ruled out the presence of a blood clot or thoracic outlet syndrome. Harris is scheduled to meet with the Nationals’ lead team physician, Dr. Robin West, to evaluate next steps upon returning to Washington, D.C. He will begin the season on the injured list.

Mets: In addition to Lugo, starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco will miss roughly the first month of the season due to a right hamstring tear. He had been a candidate to start the second game of the season, but Marcus Stroman will do so instead. The Mets are also without starter Noah Syndergaard, who is due back from Tommy John surgery in June. Three other fringe candidates to make the team -- relievers Drew Smith and Arodys Vizcaíno, and bench bat José Martínez -- missed out due to injuries. 

Who is hot and who is not?

Nationals: When Ryan Zimmerman re-signed with the Nats for his 16th season after electing not to play in 2020, he joked, “If I could just have 11 months off between every year, I’d be great every time I’m coming in for a new year.” Zimmerman, 36, belted six home runs in just 10 spring games. Fellow first baseman Bell also hit six homers in 18 games. Robles thrived in the leadoff spot and hit .296 in camp. On the mound, Suero fanned 13 in 8 1/3 innings. The Nats are not concerned about slugger Juan Soto batting .182 (without a homer) as he worked on his timing this spring. They optioned third baseman Carter Kieboom (.133) to Triple-A Rochester, where he wants to improve his swing mechanics.

Mets: Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor both enjoyed dynamic camps for the Mets, combining for seven home runs over their first 28 games. The power was welcome in particular for Alonso, who didn’t hit a single homer last spring in advance of a disappointing sophomore season. deGrom also submitted some fine Grapefruit League performances, hitting 102 mph on the radar gun in March.