Adam Eaton’s injury, Mets’ rout of Nationals spoil home opener
Adam Eaton lay face first in the dirt behind home plate, catching his breath after a lengthy sprint around the bases.
The Nationals’ leadoff hitter and offensive sparkplug had just scored from first on a double to left field by Anthony Rendon, as third base coach Bobby Henley once again took a chance on the opponents’ relay throws.
That gave Washington an early one-run lead in the last of third inning on Thursday against the New York Mets and continued a torrid start for Eaton, who missed most of last season with an ACL injury.
But Washington starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg gave up two home runs and the New York Mets came back to win 8-2 and spoil Opening Day for an announced sell-out crowd of 42,477 fans on a 42-degree day. To make matters worse, Eaton left with an injury in the top of the sixth.
“He tweaked his ankle on the slide home,” new Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “Took X-rays, everything is negative. He said he feels fine. He caught his spike or toe when he slid at home, and he said it felt weird.”
The Nationals and Mets are off Friday and are slated to play Saturday at 1:05 p.m., though snow is in the forecast. That could buy some extra time for the red-hot Eaton, who is batting .455 with 10 runs scored.
“I made that slide (in the third) a million times,” he said. “I think my pride was hurt more than anything else. It was a little tweak. We taped it and went back out and it felt better. But this is the big leagues and you have to be able to run and do a lot of things at a high level. It was a precautionary thing” to leave the game.
It was the third loss in a row for the Nationals (4-3), who played before a seventh straight Opening Day sell-out at Nationals Park.
Losing pitcher Strasburg (1-1) went six innings and allowed four runs and five hits while striking out six with two walks.
“I wish I had those two pitches back,” he said of the homers he allowed. “I will learn from it.”
Strasburg was replaced in the seventh by Brandon Kintzler, who gave up a two-out grand slam to Jay Bruce as the Mets took an 8-2 lead.
The day got off to a good start as Eaton hit a double on the first pitch he saw in the first off Mets starter and winner Jacob deGrom (1-1), who yielded just four hits and one earned run in six innings.
Rendon, who finished with three hits, followed with a single and when right fielder Jay Bruce misplayed the ball Eaton came in to score for a 1-0 lead.
The Mets (5-1) tied the game in the second as Bruce hit a double to center, went to third on a groundout and then scored on a balk by Strasburg.
The Mets took a 2-1 lead in the fourth as Yoenis Cespedes crushed a solo homer to left-center off Strasburg.
Strasburg also gave up a homer again in the fifth, as Michael Conforto lined a two-run shot just over the fence in left for a 4-2 lead. The hit was originally ruled a double but a video review turned it into a homer for Conforto, who came off the disabled list earlier in the day.
The Nationals loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth, but did not score. Trea Turner made the last out of the inning as he struck out looking, then the shortstop was ejected by home plate umpire Doug Eddings for arguing the call. It was the first career ejection for Turner, who has played in 205 games and struck out all three times Thursday.
“I felt like that was a big spot in the game. Calls haven’t gone my way,” said Turner, who has fanned seven times in 26 at bats this season.
Wilmer Difo came in to play short in the top of the seventh. The grand slam by Bruce later in the seventh came after it appeared he took strike three on a pitch from Kintzler, but the pitch was ruled a ball by Eddings.
But the main concern in the Nationals clubhouse after the game was the health of Eaton, who missed last season after tearing his ACL while running out a grounder almost a year ago.
Eaton is now 10-for-22 this season with two doubles, two homers and has reached base in all six games he has played.
He had a double and walk in two at bats before he was replaced in left field to start the sixth by Brian Goodwin. “I live in Michigan and I played at Miami of Ohio,” Eaton said before the game. “Nothing shocks me anymore. I have played in a lot of crap.”
But now the Nationals just hope he can play, no matter the conditions.
NOTES: The Nationals had just six hits against the Mets Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.50) is slated to pitch Saturday against fellow lefty Steven Matz (0-1, 6.75) of the Mets Blaine Gaskill, the police officer who confronted the school shooter at Great Mills High School in St. Marys County, Maryland, two weeks ago, threw the first pitch.