Feb 28, 2014, 10:44 AM EDT
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Hey, look at that: It’s a real baseball field! And there will be real baseball played on it this afternoon! OK, so it’s real exhibition baseball, but that’s a whole lot better than no baseball at all, so why not get excited for the Nationals’ Grapefruit League opener against the Mets here at Tradition Field.
Matt Williams, in his first game as a big-league manager, brought several regulars here, including Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos. Those guys are likely to get two at-bats apiece before calling it a day and turning things over to backups and minor leaguers.
Taylor Jordan, meanwhile, is first up on the mound for the Nationals, with the first opportunity to state his case for the No. 5 spot in the Opening Day rotation. The young right-hander will probably pitch two innings, according to Williams. There will be a host of relievers behind him, including prospect A.J. Cole.
If you’re stuck in the cold back in D.C., take solace knowing that baseball season is now underway. And knowing that you can get all the updates and analysis right here…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. NEW YORK METS
Where: Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie
Gametime: 1:10 p.m. EST
TV: MLB.tv live (Mets’ SNY broadcast), MLB Network tape-delayed at 9 p.m. EST
Radio: WFED (1500 AM)
Weather: Partly cloudy, 73 degrees, Wind 6 mph in from CF
RF Nate McLouth
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
DH Tyler Moore
LF Scott Hairston
CF Eury Perez
(RHP Taylor Jordan)
LF Chris Young
SS Ruben Tejada
RF Curtis Granderson
1B Ike Davis
3B Josh Satin
DH Lucas Duda
2B Wilmer Flores
C Travis d’Arnaud
CF Juan Lagares
(RHP Rafael Montero)
1:09 p.m. — And for the first time in 2014 … we are underway. Rafael Montero starts off Nate McLouth with a fastball for ball one on a gorgeous afternoon in Port St. Lucie.
1:15 p.m. — And Montero retires the side with ease. McLouth lofted a lazy fly ball to left. Danny Espinosa fell behind 0-2 and then tapped a check-swing grounder to third. And Ryan Zimmerman struck out looking. Here comes Taylor Jordan to the mound for the bottom of the first.
1:25 p.m. — A scoreless inning for Jordan, who did allow a leadoff single to Chris Young but then looked sharp in getting Ruben Tejada and Curtis Granderson to fly out. Jordan then finished with a flourish, getting Ike Davis looking at what appeared to be a nasty, 81 mph changeup. Jordan has been working on that pitch a lot this spring, and Matt Williams this morning called it a key for the right-hander. Scoreless after one.
1:30 p.m. — Make it 6 up and 6 down for Montero, who has cruised through his two innings with ease. Adam LaRoche struck out looking at a fastball on the outside corner. Ian Desmond flied out to center and Wilson Ramos wrapped up the top of the second with a routine grounder to short. The good news: Ramos was chugging down the first-base line pretty good, certainly faster than he usually ran last season.
1:45 p.m. — Solid spring debut for Jordan, who finishes with two scoreless innings, allowing only the one leadoff single to Young. He didn’t walk anybody, struck out two and threw 16 of 21 pitches for strikes. Jordan showed good command and displayed a nice changeup. And he was aided with the first great defensive play of the year when Eury Perez made a spectacular, backhanded grab to rob Lucas Duda of extra bases. Our first Sweet Fancy Moses! moment of 2014. Onto the third inning of a scoreless game, with A.J. Cole set to take the mound for the Nats now.
1:53 p.m. — And a scoreless bottom of the third for Cole, who recorded a pair of strikeouts on what I believe were changeups. They registered at 83 mph, though they didn’t break very much. Nice play at third base, too, by Zimmerman, who lunged way to his left to snag a line drive by Tejada. Onto the fourth, still scoreless here.
2:00 p.m. — Hmm, the Nats have sent 12 men to the plate so far. And all 12 have been retired by Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom, six of them on strikeouts. This is when we remind you pitchers are ahead of hitters early in spring training. Still scoreless.
3:00 p.m. — Sorry for the lack of updates. We were down in the clubhouse talking to starters who left the game already. While down there, the Nats took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth when Wilson Ramos launched an RBI double off the wall in left-center, a bomb that Ramos looked like he thought might have been enough to clear the fence. Christian Garcia, though, was roughed up in the bottom of the inning, allowing four runs on several well-struck balls, including a 2-run homer by Ike Davis on a hanging curveball. Rough debut for Garcia, who was appearing in his first big-league spring training game since 2009 with the Yankees. So it’s 4-1 Mets now in the sixth.
3:15 p.m. — Make it 4-3 as the Nats score a pair in the top of the seventh. Steven Souza Jr. had the biggest blow, a rocket of a base hit to right that ultimately brought home a run (after a horribly wild throw to the plate). So at the stretch, the Nats now trail by a run. Xavier Cedeno tossed a scoreless sixth, now it’s Aaron Barrett on the mound.
3:23 p.m. — Nice job by Barrett in a scoreless seventh, especially getting a double-play grounder. And a nice scoop at first base by Matt Skole, who is a big man over there but displayed soft hands as he snagged a tough hop. Still 4-3 New York heading to the eighth.
3:33 p.m. — Here come the Nats! Matt Skole and Zach Walters rope back-to-back doubles, and that ties the game 4-4 in the eighth. Walters has two doubles today and has hit the ball quite hard. Unfortunately, he also got picked off second base to kill a potential go-ahead rally.
3:42 p.m. — A scoreless inning for Manny Delcarmen, who is an intriguing name here in camp. Given his past experience, the right-hander could put himself in the mix for a spot in the bullpen with a strong spring. And he got off on the right foot today. Still 4-4 going to the ninth. Extra innings on the first day of spring training? No thanks!
3:56 p.m. — It’s hard to find two faster guys on a baseball field than Jeff Kobernus and Michael Taylor, and the two just combined to give the Nats the lead. Kobernus singled and then swiped second on a pitch that got away from the catcher. Taylor then drilled a ball over the center fielder’s head and raced all the way around to third for an RBI triple. So it’s 5-4 Nats as we go to the bottom of the ninth, with big left-hander Tyler Robertson in to try to close it out.
4:02 p.m. — That’s your ballgame. Nats win 5-4 and are undefeated in 2014. Odds of Matt Williams declaring “World Series or bust” after this?
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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