NEW YORK -- The Mets entered this weekend's four-game series against the Nationals hoping to pull closer to contention in the as-yet uncompetitive National League East. Instead, it's the Nats who have taken advantage of the opportunity, widening their division lead back to double digits with a 7-2 win Friday
NEW YORK -- The Mets entered this weekend's four-game series against the Nationals hoping to pull closer to contention in the as-yet uncompetitive National League East. Instead, it's the Nats who have taken advantage of the opportunity, widening their division lead back to double digits with a 7-2 win Friday night at Citi Field.
Allowing just four hits and leaning on a career-high-tying three double plays, Max Scherzer delivered eight dominant innings to win his eighth game. He threw a season-high 118 pitches, striking out at least 10 batters for the fifth straight game.
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The Nationals backed Scherzer with three homers against Mets starter Steven Matz, who completed seven innings but allowed four runs. Matt Wieters and Michael Taylor hit back-to-back shots to open the third inning, before Anthony Rendon added a two-run long ball in the sixth.
"We're pretty dangerous in our lineup, one through nine," Rendon said. "Some of our pitchers can hit, too."
In his second start back from a season-opening stint on the disabled list, Matz struck out four and walked none, allowing eight hits. But outside of Jose Reyes' eighth-inning home run and Jay Bruce's ninth-inning shot, the Mets did little to support their starter.
"The Nationals, they've got a very good ballclub," Reyes said. "We go out there and try to win, too. There's still two more games in the series. It's not easy because they're a very good ballclub, but we're still going to go out there and give it our best."
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Back-to-back: Matz retired six straight Nationals to start the game, but Wieters snapped that run with a homer to lead off the third. Three pitches later, Taylor redirected another 94-mph sinker over the right-field fence, giving the Nationals a two-run lead. All three of the home runs that Matz allowed came on fastballs.
"I think there's still stuff that I need to get better at," Matz said.
Double duty: The Mets' most promising rally against Scherzer unfolded in the second inning, when the Nationals starter opened the inning with a walk and a hit batsman. The next batter, Travis d'Arnaud, pounded a pitch into the dirt for a 5-4-3 double play to highlight Scherzer's escape. Though Scherzer struck out 10 Mets, he also leaned on the double plays.
"The one to d'Arnaud, I knew if I executed a slider down, there would be a chance for a double play," Scherzer said. "The other two just happened." More >
"We're playing a division team, a first-place team in the Nationals and we want to beat these guys. It's never fun losing, especially to guys in our division who are on top of us." -- Matz on the Nationals, who have won all five games they've played at Citi Field this season
"They're too good of a team. If we don't take care of business, it's on us. The standings [right now] don't matter." -- Scherzer
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The double-digit strikeout game was Scherzer's 32nd in 81 starts since coming to the Nationals before the 2015 season. That's easily the most in the Major Leagues in that time, with Chris Sale second with 26.
Nationals: Right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who has a 1.97 ERA in eight career starts at Citi Field, faces the Mets in a 4:10 p.m. ET game Saturday.
Mets: With Matt Harvey sidelined for at least the next few weeks, Seth Lugo becomes an even more important member of the Mets' rotation. Sharp in his season debut last time out, Lugo allowed one run in seven innings in Atlanta. The right-hander will look to keep that going against the Nationals at Citi Field.
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Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.
Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Nationals on Friday.