NEW YORK (AP) — Without much time to rest up for their home opener, the New York Mets were no match for Stephen Strasburg.
A pinpoint Strasburg outpitched Noah Syndergaard, rookie Victor Robles homered for Washington’s only hit until the ninth inning and the Nationals beat the drowsy Mets 4-0 on Thursday.
“Just executing the game plan. I think the biggest thing is never taking a pitch off,” Strasburg said.
Following a 5-1 trip to start the season, the Mets got back to New York after 2 a.m. in the wake of a 6-4 victory at Miami. They were even held up about 30-45 minutes postgame Wednesday night while Dominic Smith chugged enough water to be able to complete a drug test.
But about 11 hours after arriving in Queens in the middle of the night, they were back on the field again — and their lineup looked sleepy while striking out 14 times.
“I don’t think we were in the proper situation to win a ballgame based on the rest of the guys’ sleep and travel,” said Syndergaard, who traveled to New York ahead of his teammates.
He would have preferred a day game Wednesday in Miami or a night game Thursday at home.
“That would have been nice,” Syndergaard said.
Wilmer Difo drove in two runs, and Washington’s struggling bullpen shined after Strasburg (1-0) struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings. Working with a 91-94 mph fastball rather than the 98-99 mph heat he used to bring, the 30-year-old righty kept the ball off the barrel and walked just one.
“Pitching isn’t just about throwing as hard as you can. I never felt like I was a guy who tried to just do that and light up the radar gun and be happy regardless of outcome,” Strasburg said. “So, it’s just execution. I knew eventually getting older, it’s not going to maintain it. It’s just a part of life, but I still want to go out there and compete and give everything I have.”
Up against Syndergaard for the second time in six days, Strasburg took a one-hitter into the seventh before giving up consecutive singles with two outs.
Matt Grace threw a called third strike past pinch-hitter J.D. Davis, then Justin Miller and Tony Sipp combined to whiff three in a hitless eighth. Sean Doolittle completed the four-hitter, making Strasburg 8-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 11 starts at Citi Field.
“He’s pitching. He’s using all his pitches,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He looks really good.”
Coming in, Washington relievers ranked last in the majors with an 11.02 ERA, and opponents were batting .377 against them. But a week after getting shut out in their home opener by Jacob deGrom and the Mets, the Nationals turned the tables.
“If we’re going to do this, I’ve got to trust the bullpen to get the job done. And they got it done,” Martinez said.
The only hit Syndergaard (0-1) allowed in six innings was Robles’ leadoff homer in the sixth. He struck out six, walked two and lost for the first time in his last eight decisions at home.
The sellout crowd of 44,424 was the second-largest for a regular-season game at Citi Field.
“I thought it was good energy. I think you’ve got to give credit to their pitcher. Great pitcher,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “He was executing pitches at the bottom of the zone, keeping us off kilter, and they just beat us.”
Anthony Rendon doubled against Seth Lugo to start the ninth and scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s sacrifice fly. Difo, who delivered a safety squeeze in the second, added an RBI single off Tim Peterson.
Wilson Ramos’ leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth was the first hit of the game, although Washington had already been handed a run. Syndergaard walked the first two batters in the second, and both moved up on a wild pitch. Juan Soto scored without a play when Syndergaard wisely went to first with Difo’s sacrifice bunt.
The 21-year-old Robles, batting ninth behind Strasburg, drove the first pitch of the sixth over the left-field fence for his second homer this season — both off Syndergaard.
Nationals: INF-OF Howie Kendrick was reinstated from the injured list after recovering from a strained left hamstring. He didn’t get in the game. The 35-year-old Kendrick had been sidelined since rupturing his right Achilles tendon on May 19 last year. “I’d like to get him a start here pretty soon,” Martinez said. ... 1B Matt Adams (back spasms) pinch-hit in the ninth and grounded into a fielder’s choice. Adams left Tuesday’s game after taking a nasty fall over a railing while trying to catch a foul popup. ... RHP Anibal Sanchez plans to make his next scheduled start despite a sizable bruise on his right hip. Sanchez was hit by a line drive Wednesday and left his Nationals debut early. ... OF Michael A. Taylor (right knee/hip sprain) was set to begin a rehab assignment at Double-A Harrisburg.
Mets: Jeff McNeil was back in the lineup at third base after sitting out Wednesday with a sore left knee.
Nationals: After an off day, $140 million lefty Patrick Corbin makes his second start for Washington — both against the Mets. Corbin, from the Syracuse area in Central New York, allowed two runs over six innings in a no-decision Sunday.
Mets: LHP Steven Matz (0-0, 1.69 ERA) was moved up a day to pitch Saturday because the team wanted to split up Matz and fellow left-hander Jason Vargas in the rotation, Callaway said. RHP Zack Wheeler will now start Sunday in between them. Matz is 1-5 with a 3.93 ERA in 10 starts against Washington, including 0-4 at home.