Scherzer faces deGrom in spring game, rematch on opening day

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Washington Nationals' Max Scherzer (31) throws during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the New York Mets, Sunday, March 21, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

No surprise here: Max Scherzer will have the ball in his hands when he begins the final season of his seven-year, $210 million contract with the Washington Nationals.

Scherzer will make his Nationals-record sixth opening day start April 1, facing the New York Mets in Washington. It’ll be a rematch of an exhibition mound matchup Sunday, when Scherzer allowed two homers and threw 90 pitches in five innings of a 6-2 loss to the Mets and starter Jacob deGrom in West Palm Beach, Florida.

“He’s the guy. He’s the guy that gets everything started for us,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said in explaining his decision to use Scherzer in Game 1 — which, of course, was the expected outcome.

“He competes. You know what we’re going to get from him,” Martinez said. “He loves opening day. So he’s a guy we want to follow opening day.”

It’s quite a way to get things going for Major League Baseball: three-time Cy Young Award winner Scherzer against two-time honoree deGrom.

As for the rest of his rotation, Martinez said he and new pitching coach Jim Hickey still need to figure out how to slot their other starters. There’s 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and lefties Jon Lester and Patrick Corbin; the fifth starter is expected to be Joe Ross, who opted out of last season because of coronavirus concerns.

On Sunday, Scherzer allowed six hits and four earned runs, with a solo shot by Michael Conforto in the fourth and a two-run homer by Francisco Lindor in the fifth. Another run scored on a wild pitch.

Scherzer wasn’t too concerned by the results, of course. He said he was working on things, including trying a slide-step.