WASHINGTON, DC – As an Opening Day replacement starter, Tylor Megill did his best Jacob deGrom impersonation.
Megill—who just over a week ago was unlikely to even break camp with the team—fired five shutout innings, allowed just three hits, and struck out six in the Mets’ 5-1 win over the Nationals on Thursday at Nationals Park. As Megill settled into a groove and retired his final eight straight batters, the absence of the Mets ace, who will be out until at least June with a right scapula injury, taking his usual menacing stance on the hill became that much easier to tolerate.
“I’ll remember this one,” said Megill, who added he will hang on to his Opening Day jersey as a keepsake. “First of many.”
Buck Showalter earned his first win as Mets manager, and the Amazin’s improved to 40-21 to continue their streak owning the best record in Major League Baseball on Opening Day.
“We’re not going to win them all, but we’re going to try,” Showalter said. “Everybody does, right? Some nights where they won’t look as aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes the baseballs gods will get you, but tonight, they smiled on us.”
The Mets’ new-look lineup backed up Megill’s terrific 68-pitch outing by doing something it didn’t do last season: taking advantage with runners in scoring position. Mark Canha made an impact with an RBI single, Eduardo Escobar ripped a double to deep centerfield, and Starling Marte reached base twice. Robinson Cano, in his first game back following his 2021 PED suspension, went 2-for-3, including a leadoff bunt single against the shift, with a walk and two runs scored.
“As long as they give me third base open, I was going to try to hit it that way,” Cano said. “It’s not about my numbers. I just go out and get on base and help this team to win a game.”
Eight of the Mets nine starters secured at least one hit on Thursday; the only batter that didn’t was James McCann, but he still collected an RBI after being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. The Mets knocked left-hander Patrick Corbin out of his start after four-plus innings, amassing 12 hits in nine innings after all was said and done.
Megill, throwing harder than he ever has, displayed why Showalter and the Mets were right to give him the ball for Opening Day.
“That was fun to watch,” Showalter said of Megill’s outing. “You couldn’t ask for much better.”
The right-hander pounded the strike zone with 99-mph fastballs, about three mph harder than his previous career-high, to open the first inning. It was obvious the young right-hander was amped for his Opening Day start, and Nationals hitters were completely flummoxed.
In the third inning, Megill got himself into a one-out jam with runners on the corners. Due-up? None other than the dangerous Juan Soto. But Megill wasn’t thrown off by Soto’s threatening plate presence; the 26-year-old whizzed a 98-mph fastball upstairs to induce a swing-and-a-miss from Soto for the second out. Moments later, Megill got designated hitter Nelson Cruz to ground out to end the threat and the inning. All nails.
“He’s probably one of the more fun at-bats to pitch to,” Megill said of facing Soto. “I mean, he’s very competitive. I find myself very competitive as well. So going toe-to-toe with a guy like that, it’s always fun.”
Soto, one of the best hitters in baseball, finally unleashed in the sixth inning, obliterating a solo shot 428 feet into the right-field second deck off Mets reliever Trevor May. The remainder of Mets relief arms put up zeroes in the runs column, with Adam Ottavino impressing with a pair of strikeouts in his perfect Mets debut. Mets closer Edwin Diaz, in a non-save situation, allowed a walk before shutting the door on the Nats.
Following a series of unfortunate events to close out spring training—deGrom’s shoulder injury, Max Scherzer’s now-absent hamstring tightness, Brandon Nimmo’s neck stiffness—Opening Day went as smoothly as it could go for the inauguration of the Showalter Mets.
Which is saying something after Pete Alonso, too, avoided complete calamity after a scary Mason Thompson hit-by-pitch that drilled his shoulder and helmet in the ninth inning. Alonso dropped to the ground, spitting blood, and Showalter immediately removed him from the game.
Later, the manager said Alonso would have “some sexy lips for a couple of days.” But Showalter emphasized he wasn’t making light of the situation—the Mets got drilled three times by Nationals pitchers in Thursday’s game. The skipper said there was some emotion in the Mets dugout following the knocks.
“All good, just a busted lip,” said Alonso, who sported a swollen and bloody lip at his locker. “That’s it. Got all my teeth. No concussion. All good.”