With Opening Day 2020 postponed and no firm date in sight for MLB’s return, there aren’t many places to turn for baseball action.
That is, unless you have a PlayStation 4 and a copy of MLB The Show. In lieu of real baseball, I simulated the Nationals’ season opener against the New York Mets. While no substitution for the real thing, it does present an opportunity to talk some baseball in a time when the sporting world is at a standstill.
Here’s how the game went.
Away: Washington Nationals
SS Trea Turner
RF Adam Eaton
2B Starlin Castro
LF Juan Soto
3B Howie Kendrick
1B Eric Thames
C Kurt Suzuki
RHP Max Scherzer
CF Victor Robles
Home: New York Mets
3B Jeff McNeil
2B Robinson Canó
1B Pete Alonso
RF Michael Conforto
LF J.D. Davis
CF Brandon Nimmo
C Wilson Ramos
SS Amed Rosario
RHP Jacob deGrom
For the Nationals’ starting lineup, I stuck with the Turner-Eaton combo atop the order and slotted Castro in at third—something manager Davey Martinez appeared to be leaning toward this spring. Kendrick got the start over Asdrúbal Cabrera at third (with Carter Kieboom working in the minors) and I gave Thames the nod over Ryan Zimmerman because of the righty deGrom on the mound.
Suzuki is expected to be Scherzer’s personal catcher this season, so starting him instead of Yan Gomes was an easy call. Robles also got pushed down to the No. 9 spot in the order, another move Martinez spoke in favor of at West Palm Beach.
As for the Mets, predicting what newly hired skipper Luis Rojas would do with the lineup proved impossible, so I made my own. McNeil profiles as a steady leadoff hitter with a strong on-base percentage. Canó hit second because of his contract more than anything else. The Alonso-Conforto-Davis trio combined for 108 homers last season and would rival the heart of any lineup in the NL.
The hardest choice was what to do with Nimmo, who probably would’ve hit second if it weren’t for Canó. He doesn’t have the power to provide Davis with much protection but could be useful getting on base in front of Ramos. I also would’ve liked to hit Rosario ninth but decided I didn’t know enough about Rojas to be that bold.
The Mets clobbered Max Scherzer. He escaped the first inning allowing only one run on a solo homer off the bat of Canó but ran into immediate trouble the following frame. A walk, groundball single and hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for Rosario, who singled to right to score two more. He was followed by back-to-back singles from deGrom and McNeil that put New York ahead 5-0 with still no outs in the second.
Austin Voth, who lost out on the virtual fifth starter competition to Joe Ross, came in to relieve Scherzer and helped the Nationals get out of the inning.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 1.0 IP, 5 H, 5 R (5 ER), 1 BB, 2 K, 38 pitches/20 strikes
That score would remain until the fourth, when the Nationals finally got on the board. Eaton laid down a bunt single to lead off the inning before Castro reinforced his spot in the middle of the order with a home run to left that cut the deficit to three.
Unfortunately for Washington, the Mets would roar right back in the bottom half of the inning. Voth allowed three straight singles before serving up a two-out grand slam to Conforto, giving New York a commanding 9-2 lead. Roenis Elías struck out Davis to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Yet that didn’t stop the Nationals from trying to mount a comeback similar to the one they did against these very same Mets on Sept. 3, 2019. With deGrom still pitching, they scored three runs in the fifth thanks to a 383-foot homer to straightaway center by Turner. The big inning was spoiled by a double play, but it also chased deGrom from the game.
Jacob deGrom’s Line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 5 R (5 ER), 5 BB, 2 K, 89 pitches/46 strikes
The Nationals’ bullpen did its part to keep the team in it. After Elías pitched a clean fifth, Wander Suero, Tanner Rainey and Fernando Abad each tossed quick and scoreless frames to keep the Mets’ bats quiet the rest of the afternoon.
Washington’s young studs Robles and Soto each came through with big homers. Robles hit a solo shot 423 feet to left in the seventh and Soto pulled a two-run bomb into the upper deck in right to make the score 9-8 with five outs left to play.
Rojas called on Seth Lugo to pitch the ninth, a surprising move given Edwin Diaz’s status as the de facto closer. But it proved to be the right call, as Lugo pitched a 1-2-3 inning to give the Mets an Opening Day win at Citi Field.
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