Postgame analysis of the Nats' 2-0 loss to the New York Mets on Tuesday night at Citi Field.
How it happened: Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard can be a chore for any opposing lineup with his 100 mile per hour heater, a swooping curveball once dubbed the 'Hook from Hell' and a changeup that dives over the plate at a speed some pitchers envy for their fastball. The 6-foot-6 flamethrower is as tough a pitcher to face as there is on the planet and that can be an especially difficult task when more than half the players in your lineup are searching for their swing. Nats manager Dusty Baker even swapped Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth in the Nats' order in hopes of an offensive spark before Tuesday's game. Maybe it would have worked against another pitcher, but not Syndergaard.
The man they call 'Thor' decimated the Nationals lineup with power and precision. Only five Nationals players got hits off of him and only Ryan Zimmerman earned more than a single. The Mets ace struck out an easy 10 through seven innings with no runs or walks allowed. Pure domination. You can see why Bryce Harper wants him on Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.
Max Scherzer wasn't sharp and gave up multiple homers for the third straight outing, yet he only allowed two earned runs in total. Most nights that would be enough, but not against Syndergaard, as the Nats fell 2-0 in the series opener in New York on Tuesday night.
What it means: The Nationals dropped the first of their head-to-head matchups with the Mets and will of course hope for better luck in the second leg of this series on Wednesday. The opener brought the Mets within a half-game of first place in the NL East with the Nats nursing a small lead at 23-16 with the Mets sitting at 22-16.
More homers for Scherzer: As mentioned in the intro, Scherzer wasn't bad on Tuesday night. In fact, he struck out 10 batters to tie Corey Kluber for the record among active pitchers for strikeouts in a two-game span. With 20 in his previous outing, Scherzer punched out 30 batters across two games. That's impressive. But, as we've seen so many times lately, Scherzer struggled particularly with keeping balls in the park. He allowed two more homers on Tuesday and has now given up multiple homers in three consecutive outings and in 11 of his last 25 starts overall. The right-hander has spoken time and time again about how he needs to make a mechanical adjustment to eliminate the homers. For a while it seemed like Scherzer knew what was wrong, it was just a matter of fixing it. At this point he has to be pretty lost as he searches for an answer.
Nats offense keeps scuffling: The Nats were shut out on Tuesday and have now scored just two total runs in their last three games. They have one run in their last two games and that was on Zimmerman's inside-the-park homer against the Marlins on Sunday that probably should have been a double. The Nats' trouble scoring runs is a big reason they are now 7-9 in the month of May. Also, this team needs to figure out a way to get to Syndergaard. Through four career starts against Washington, he now holds a 1.33 ERA (4 ER, 27 IP) with 30 strikeouts. He's good against everybody, but is especially lethal when facing the Nats.
Zimmerman doubles: How about that one, solitary extra-base hit the Nats got off Syndergaard? Let's go glass half-full for a moment. Zimmerman's second inning double to left-center field was his only hit of the night, but it was part of a positive trend for the Nats first baseman. He now has six doubles in 14 games this month after only landing three in the 19 games he played in April.
Murphy hits again: Murphy also had just one hit, but it was an impressive one all things considered. In the top of the fourth with two outs, and after Harper had gone down looking at a 100 mile per hour fastball on the inside of the plate, Murphy notched a bloop single to right field off Syndergaard. And to do so, he had to turn on a 100 mph heater thrown just inches from his hands. It was that kind of night for the Nats, who had to scrape and claw for the few positive moments on offense they were permitted.
What's next: The Nationals continue their series at the Mets with Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 1.93) and Colon (3-2, 3.53) set to start.