NEW YORK — Max Scherzer’s ninth pitch to Yoenis Cespedes went high and pushed the count full. Matt Wieters signaled for another fastball, and the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner shook him off.
Cespedes fouled off a slider, and Scherzer came back with another offspeed offering, his 118th pitch of the night. Cespedes swung over it for the 10th strikeout of Scherzer’s masterful performance , and the Washington’s ace pounded his glove with a fist. The 32-year-old right-hander reached double digits in strikeouts for the fifth straight start and limited the Mets to four hits, leading the Nationals over New York 7-2 on Friday night.
“I love it. I love competing against the best,” Scherzer said. “I knew that’s my last batter. I knew that I was at the end of the rope. And that’s just everything he is, everything I’ve got, and let’s compete.”
Wieters had wanted to stay with fastballs up and outside.
“If he knows he’s going to throw that good of a slider, he should definitely shake me off and throw that good of a slider,” Wieters said.
Wieters and Michael A. Taylor hit consecutive homers starting the third inning against Steven Matz (1-1), and Anthony Rendon added a two-run homer in the sixth and had three RBIs. Bryce Harper finished with three hits, including a run-scoring single , as the Nationals improved to 5-0 at Citi Field this year.
Scherzer (8-4) won for the fourth time in five starts, starting 26 of 29 batters with strikes. He never threw more than 16 pitches in an inning until the eighth.
He walked two and hit two batters with changeups, and his 118 pitches were his most since May 11 last year. He got defensive help when Washington’s infield turned three double plays behind him.
“I’m a fly-ball pitcher, guys,” he said. “That never happens.”
Nationals manager Dusty Baker didn’t mind.
“Sometimes the stats are wrong,” he said.
Scherzer allowed four hits or fewer for the 10th time in 14 starts and reached double digits in strikeouts for the eighth time this season and the 57th time in his big league career. The five straight double-digit games set his career high.
“It’s a cool accomplishment. That’s not easy to do,” he said. “You’ve got to be on your game every single game, and your pitches have to be sharp every single time out.”
Jose Reyes led off the eighth with his first home run since May 1, driving a hanging curveball into the right-field second deck, and Jay Bruce greeted Shawn Kelley in the ninth with his 18th homer. New York, which dropped into third place, 10 1/2 games behind the NL East-leading Nationals, started a stretch in which it faces Stephen Strasburg on Saturday and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw on Monday.
“You cannot let him get the lead,” Mets manager Terry Collins said of Scherzer. “You watch his demeanor on the mound. When he starts walking around with that big, long pace that he’s got, he’s locked in.”
Making his second start since recovering from left elbow inflammation, Matz allowed four runs and eight hits in seven innings with four strikeouts and no walks. In his opening start of the season, he won at Atlanta last weekend.
Matz retired his first six batters — matching the most by a Mets starter this year — before Wieters homered into the center-field seats.Taylor drove an opposite-field drive over the right-field wall three pitches later , the sixth back-to-back homers for the Nationals this year.
Rendon made it 4-0 in the sixth with another opposite-field drivh
“I just have to have some better misses,” Matz said. “When you’re facing a guy like Scherzer, one of the best pitchers in the game right now, those mistakes are going to hurt you.”
Daniel Murphy doubled in the sixth and has reached in all 27 games he’s played against the Mets, hitting .393 (42 for 107) with eight doubles, a triple, eight homers and 28 RBIs.
Nationals: LHP Sammy Solis, on the DL since April 19 with inflammation in his pitching elbow, began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday and pitched one inning against visiting Pawtucket, allowing a home run to Rusney Castillo leading off the first. Solis then got three groundouts around a walk.
Mets: RHP Matt Harvey (stress injury to the scapula bone in his pitching shoulder) and OF Juan Lagares (broken left thumb) were put on the 10-day DL. New York recalled INF Matt Reynolds and OF Brandon Nimmo from Triple-A Las Vegas.
Nationals: Strasburg (7-2) has allowed more than three earned runs in just two of 13 starts.
Mets: RHP Seth Lugo (1-0) makes his second start of the season after recovering from inflammation in his pitching elbow. He allowed one run and six hits over seven innings at Atlanta last Sunday.
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