Interrupting a pair of performances befitting the owners of the past three NL Cy Young Awards, Cano went deep against Scherzer in his debut at-bat for the Mets and saved a run with an unusual double play, and New York edged the Bryce Harper-less Washington Nationals 2-0 in the opener for both teams Thursday.
While the Nationals' offense clearly missed its former slugger — Harper was up I-95, playing Game 1 of his $330 million contract for the Philadelphia Phillies — Cano showed why the Mets wanted to get him from the Seattle Mariners in a December deal that also landed closer Edwin Diaz, who got the save Thursday.
Cano, an eight-time All-Star, drove a changeup to left-center on Scherzer's 13th pitch of the season. The shot quieted a sellout crowd of 42,263 on a sunny afternoon with the temperature at 56 degrees for the start.
"Missed by a little bit too much over the middle," lamented Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award recipient who was runner-up to deGrom last season. "You do that in this league, you get burned." Cano became the first Mets player to go deep in his initial at-bat with the club since Mike Jacobs in 2005, and the 10th overall.
It was his play at second base that was the talk of both clubhouses. The Nationals had runners at the corners in the third, but deGrom struck out Trea Turner, then got Anthony Rendon to hit a grounder to third. The runner there, 21-year-old rookie Victor Robles, hesitated before heading home. Cano took the throw from third for the forceout a second, then zipped the ball to the plate. Robles wound up tagged out for a 5-4-2-5 double play.
"He's probably the only guy in baseball that makes that play, and it was a no-look pass to home, to boot," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "The runner at third probably did the wrong thing — and Cano made him pay."
Robles acknowledged as much. "To be honest, I got a little confused," Robles said through a translator. "In the middle of the moment, I realized I had made the mistake, so I tried to kind of make up for it."
He is Washington's man in center field, where Harper spent a lot of time a year ago, and that gaffe on the bases stood out more than Robles' double or his diving catch. With Harper no longer in the heart of the lineup, 2018 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Juan Soto hit cleanup, and he went 0 for 3.
A day after signing a $137.5 million contract, deGrom (1-0) set a major league mark with his 30th consecutive start allowing three runs or fewer. Scherzer (0-1) was charged with both of the Mets' runs in 7 2/3 innings.
They are only the second pair of starters in an opening day game to get double-figure strikeouts. The others: Dave McNally of the Orioles and Sam McDowell of the Indians in 1970. "You can all see what happens," Washington's Adam Eaton said, "when two Cy Young winners go head-to-head."
WAY TO GO, ROOK Mets 1B Pete Alonso started in his major league debut and went 1 for 4 with a single off RHP Justin Miller in the eighth. "It was awesome. It felt like a big — not a monkey, but a gorilla hopped off my back," Alonso said.
NUMBERS Jake Arrieta (2015-16) held the old multiple-season mark of 29 consecutive starts giving up three or fewer runs. ... Turner stole three bases. ... This was Scherzer's 83rd career game with at least 10 Ks.
UP NEXT Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard will pitch Game 2 on Saturday. He is 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA in five starts at Washington. Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg is 8-5 with a 2.83 ERA in 17 starts against the Mets, his fewest against a division opponent.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports