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Nats vs. Mets — 3/25/14

Mar 25, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

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VIERA, Fla. — We’ve reached the home stretch at last, and that means a couple of things: 1) Guys are absolutely itching to get out of here and get this thing started, and 2) Exhibition games start bearing more resemblance to regular-season games.

That’s the case today, with Stephen Strasburg and nearly every member of the Nationals’ starting lineup facing Zack Wheeler and the Mets’ regulars. It’s not exactly ideal for Strasburg (who is scheduled to pitch at least five innings) to be going up against the same team he’ll face in only six days at Citi Field, but as manager Matt Williams said: “The schedule’s the schedule, and we can’t do anything about that.”

It’ll be Dillon Gee, not Wheeler, for the Mets on Opening Day. But regardless of the name of the man on the mound, manager Terry Collins is planning to hit his pitcher eighth most of the time to begin the season. The thought process: Try to create more RBI situations for No. 3 hitter David Wright by having three position players bat in front of him, while still having Wright bat in the first inning. A few managers have tried this over the years, including Jim Riggleman for a stretch in 2011. Whether it actually works remains up for debate.

The game’s on TV today, but be sure to check back here for plenty of updates, analysis and conversation…

Space Coast Stadium, Viera
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: None
Weather: Cloudy, 70 degrees, Wind 17 mph out to CF

CF Denard Span
2B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Bryce Harper
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam LaRoche
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Stephen Strasburg

2B Eric Young Jr.
CF Juan Lagares
3B David Wright
RF Curtis Granderson
LF Chris Young
1B Ike Davis
C Travis d’Arnaud
RHP Zack Wheeler
SS Ruben Tejada

1:08 p.m. — And we’re underway on a cloudy afternoon in Viera. Stephen Strasburg starts off Eric Young with a fastball inside for ball one.

1:13 p.m. — Strasburg put himself in a rare early jam when he walked Young to open the game, but he quickly took care of that on his own, snagging Juan Lagares’ comebacker and starting a 1-6-3 double play. David Wright then lined a ball right at Denard Span to end the top of the first.

1:23 p.m. — A couple of baserunners in the bottom of the first for the Nats, with Span blooping a single to center and Jayson Werth drawing a walk. But three flyouts by Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper kept Span from advancing beyond third base, so the Nats fail to score in the inning. 0-0 as Strasburg takes the mound for the second.

1:30 p.m. — A 1-2-3 top of the second for Strasburg, with an interesting twist to close out the inning. With Ike Davis at the plate, the Nats employed another one of these shifts where Zimmerman actually positions himself as though he was the second baseman. Davis bounced a ball to the right side and Zim wound up fielding it about 45 feet from first base. Pretty easy throw from there for him to record a highly unconventional 5-3 groundout.

1:55 p.m. — And Travis d’Arnaud takes Stephen Strasburg deep to left to open the top of the third. In Strasburg’s defense, there’s a stiff wind blowing out to left field today. But it should be noted that Strasburg hung his 2-2 breaking ball and put it on a platter for d’Arnaud. Of more concern: Strasburg walked No. 9 hitter Ruben Tejada, then served up an RBI double down the right-field line to Young, with Tejada just sliding in before Lobaton’s tag. From the press box (and apparently from the stands as well) it looked like Lobaton might have gotten him. Fans were calling for Matt Williams to challenge the play (today is a replay game). But Williams stayed in the dugout. Presumably, he got word from the Nats’ video guys that Tejada was safe all along. Meanwhile, the Mets added a third run on Wright’s two-out single to open up a 3-0 lead. I’ll be curious to hear if Strasburg says he was holding back at all, or changed his approach at all today knowing he’ll be facing this same Mets lineup in six days at Citi Field.

2:13 p.m. — And the Nats come right back and get the three runs back. Plus two more. Yep, five straight batters reached against Wheeler in the bottom of the third, with two big highlights: 1) With the bases loaded, Ryan Zimmerman poked a 2-2 pitch through the left-side hole to bring two runs home, and 2) Bryce Harper absolutely crushed a 3-run homer. Opposite field. Off the flagpole in left center. Way up the pole. Yes, the wind helped some, but still, that was a bomb. It’s 5-3 Nats as Wheeler is yanked after only 2 2/3 innings.

2:25 p.m. — It’s spring training, so of course you can’t view these things quite the way you do when it really counts. But I thought it was notable that Strasburg, after given that 5-3 lead, went out and set down the Mets in order in the top of the fourth on a pair of strikeouts and a groundball. Nice shutdown inning there.

2:45 p.m. — That may do it for Strasburg, who retired seven straight after his shaky third inning. If he’s done, his line will be: 5 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. Still 5-3 Nats in the middle of the fifth.

2:55 p.m. — Well, I spoke too soon, because Strasburg hit for himself in the bottom of the fifth and took the mound again for the top of the sixth. Meanwhile, a Desmond single, stolen base and a Lobaton RBI single extended the Nats’ lead to 6-3.

3:08 p.m. — Now Strasburg is done for the day. And for the spring. He threw 5 2/3 innings today, allowing three runs on five hits, walking two and striking out seven. His total spring pitching line: 19.2 IP, 13 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 17 K. That’s a 1.83 ERA. The most important stat from today, though: Strasburg threw 84 pitches, which means he should be good for up to 100 on Opening Day at Citi Field.

3:15 p.m. — Solid day at the plate for Denard Span. He has three singles and drew a walk (his first of the spring, by the way).

3:32 p.m. — Nice relief outing for Jerry Blevins, who retired all four batters he faced, striking out two. Still 6-3 Nats as we hit the seventh-inning stretch.

3:57 p.m. — Hey, Matt Williams just won another replay challenge. Denard Span thought he caught a sinking liner to center in the top of the eighth. The ump thought otherwise. Williams challenged, and the call was overturned. So that’s his second successful challenge in three days.

4:07 p.m. — Nats win, 7-3.

  1. Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    Wow…I’m not sure if I’m more surprised by Wheeler batting 8th or by the fact that there’s precedent for this tactic. Interesting.

    • bowdenball - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      Generally it works a lot better if you have quality hitters at the top of your lineup. If you have mediocre hitters with limited power in the 1 and 2 spots it kind of negates the strategy.

      • nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:40 PM

        A lot of speed generated by doing that in this case. It backfires all the time early in the game when you you have 2 outs and RISP and the #8 hitter would come up. Its pushing your worst batter as far back as you can is the theory behind it and the starting pitcher only comes up to bat on average 2 times per game.

        Do you really want to take the chance in 2 instances per game?

      • bowdenball - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        I don’t understand what you mean by “generating speed.” A guy is just as fast if he hits 9th as he is if he hits first.

        The reason you have the pitched bat 8th is so that it’s more likely to have people on base when the 1 and 2 hitters come up, since those should be among your most productive hitters. Yes there’s a downside to moving the pitcher up one spot, but it’s not that he kills rallies, since he can do that at the 9 spot the same as at the 8th. The down side is that it’s 1/9th more likely that his spot will come up an extra time before he’s taken out for a pinch-hitter, or that his spot coming up will force your hand when you’d prefer that he pitch an extra inning. It’s a tradeoff, just like every lineup decision.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:12 PM

      Mark says Riggelman “tried” it. Actually it worked, and was probably part of the scenario behind Riggelman’s resignation. Riggelman thought he had to break down walls to get victories in light of his job-insecurity. So he was willing to try the pitcher-bats-eighth gambit, which he probably learned from Tony LaRussa. Nobody ever laughed at LaRussa but they (public and media) snickered at Riggelman, incorrectly equating desperation w/ an absence of common sense.

      • janebeard - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        That was one of the things for which I was most grateful to Riggleman. It really helped us. I hope it doesn’t help the Mets much the next few days.

  2. scnatsfan - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    Last year Tejada hit .202 so not like Pete Rose is hitting 9 to set up Wright

    • Hiram Hover - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:25 PM

      Deck chairs, meet Titanic.

      • Section 222 - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:43 PM


    • nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      That is still double what you get from most pitchers and you can play the stats from there. I’m not a fan of it regardless batting the pitcher 8th unless you have a beast of a hitter as a pitcher and a lousy #8 position player.

  3. janebeard - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    I’m not sure how to deal with SNOW here and opening day being so close. Saturday (though it’s Not A Real Game), we’ll be at the park. Hunh. Seems impossible.

    • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:47 PM

      Yeah…I *love* snow, and generally welcome it with hearty cheers, but I’m getting nervous. Fortunately, it’s supposed to be 63 degrees on Saturday…albeit with a 60% chance of rain.

    • tcostant - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:09 PM

      It will be in the 60’s for Saturday’s preseason game. Great seats at $6 each on stubhub…

  4. Jb - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Batting the pitcher 8th helped LaRussa get to the HoF. It helped Riggleman get an early reservation at Caddie’s.

  5. thelatencn - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Do you think Strasburg will use all his pitches today, or hold something back for OD?

  6. unkyd59 - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    I like this lineup:

    CF Denard Span
    2B Anthony Rendon
    RF Jayson Werth
    3B Ryan Zimmerman
    LF Bryce Harper
    SS Ian Desmond
    1B Adam LaRoche
    C Jose Lobaton
    RHP Stephen Strasburg

    That’s more like it!

    • tcostant - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:08 PM


    • Candide - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      Agree on Rendon hitting second instead of Desi. Rendon has a lot more plate discipline,* has a great eye for the strike zone, has gap power to be an RBI threat even with a runner only at first base. What is the argument for batting him anywhere else?

      *My cat has more plate discipline than Desi, even when there’s Fancy Feast Salmon Dinner on the plate…

  7. nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    Cedeno is now the only lefty in the bullpen contention for the last spot and I dont think he makes the OD.

    • Hiram Hover - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      I’m inclined to agree, but when I went back and looked at his major league splits, I was surprised by how devastating he has been vs lefties and how terrible vs righties.

      He strikes out about 1/3 of LHB, vs about 10% of righties. Lefties hit .231/.320/.308 off him, righties have crushed him: .356/.427/.552.

      That sounds tailor made for the LOOGY guy that neither Det nor Blevins is.

      • nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:32 PM

        If Roark is the 5th starter then may be you go with Cedeno. I would rather have the pitcher who gives me a full inning.

  8. Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    Anyone know why Gameday is simply showing this message for today’s game?
    There is no game content currently available for New York Mets at Washington Nationals .

    Is it available *only* on TV or something?

    • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      NM, it’s working now.

  9. Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    A’ight, Zim, I’m ready for a 3-run blast.

    • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      Sac fly? Weak! 😉

      • nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:34 PM

        Not technically a Sac Fly when a runner is on 2nd. With no outs that would have worked great.

      • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:42 PM

        True that re: if there had been no outs.

        Thanks for the clarification re: sac fly.

  10. nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    Mets make NY/FL compromise on Harvey’s rehab. Seems reasonable until you have the next pitcher who isnt Matt Harvey who wants to do the same.

  11. nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    Strasburg doesnt get the K on a great pitch and the next pitch is the HR off a hanger.

  12. nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Rendon with a bullet throw home. Runner just beat it.

  13. Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Dang. If Lobaton keeps the tag at the plate instead of chasing the runner, the hand doesn’t get in. I wonder if they’re still getting used to the new rule there, not that it would apply.

  14. davecydell - Mar 25, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Catcher can’t block the plate with his body,
    but, why not block the plate with his glove.
    [glove down trapping the ball]

  15. Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    Wow…how’d Stras handle himself during that 3-run inning?

    • David Proctor - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:02 PM

      He’s throwing almost all fastballs (though the HR was on a hanging curve).

      • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:03 PM


      • David Proctor - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        I suspect he doesn’t want to show the Mets his full arsenal this close to Opening Day

      • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        Sounds about right. Stretch it out and throw ’em off.

  16. Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    “Denard Span singles on a line drive to second baseman Eric Young.”

    What the…huh?

    • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      And then:
      “Anthony Rendon singles on a ground ball to first baseman Ike Davis. Denard Span to 2nd. One out.”

      Weird! Doth Gameday deceive me?

      • David Proctor - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        Nope! He chopped a ball to Ike Davis. Davis threw to second, but tossed it in the dirt, so Span was safe.

      • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:08 PM

        Hey, I’ll take it!

      • nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:09 PM

        That was a ball chopped that Ike Davis got to in the hole with his momentum taking him to 2nd and he threw to 2nd hitting Span in the back.

    • David Proctor - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      It was a liner up the middle. Young dove and knocked it down but had no play.

  17. Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Wow…bases loaded, one out, Zim > Harper.

    • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      Woo! Harper!!!

      On the heels of a 2 RBI single from Zim.

      Love it!

  18. nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    HARPER with a BOMB

  19. David Proctor - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    Bryce just DEMOLISHED a ball. Nats lead 5-3.

  20. RPrecupjr - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    Ahhh…..seems like Bryce is heating up at just the right time :)

    • nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      Bryce and McLouth and Danny with a nice week. Lobaton is the guy who has to get going.

  21. janebeard - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    How is it still POSSIBLE that a meaningless dinger can make me this happy, still?

  22. Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    Wheeler out after 32 pitches, eh? I guess even building up arm strength isn’t worth sticking out that kind of inning, eh?

    • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      Wait, 32 pitches seems low actually…I think Gameday actually is deceiving me this time.

      • nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:24 PM

        Thats not right because he had around 30 in that 3rd inning.

    • David Proctor - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      He was around 75 pitches. Gameday is inaccurate in Spring.

      • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:27 PM

        Yeah, I shoulda learned my lesson more completely the day it looked like Zinn threw like 31 strikes in a row 😉.

  23. David Proctor - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    Video of Bryce’s homer:

  24. Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    So, is it just me, or is Harp’s batting stance a lot different (I have yet to see a game on TV…cut back to basic cable for the off season)?

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      Eric, not just you. FP did a few minutes and showed some comparisons.

      • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        ::: fist pump :::

        I’m learning! 😉

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        And he’s going over it again. Just because he can. Comparison to his stance a week or so ago, vs. today.

      • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 3:40 PM

        Oh wow, the change is that recent? It appeared to be much more open (i.e., his right leg was pulled back a bit towards first base) with his bat just laid against his shoulder….this is all just based on the replay of the HR he hit today.

        Given the timeline, I wonder if it’s an adjustment made to deal with the “hippy” swing Williams mentioned.

        Would be interesting to know how it came about…Schu? Werth (a la that article on his approach to hitting)? Harper? All of the above?

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:09 PM

        No doubt he’s tinkered a bit all during spring, but FP was showing an AB with Harper standing more upright, holding the bat quite a bit higher, and taking a big leg kick. Today, as you saw, he was much more compact, with encouraging results.

  25. Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Still snowing steadily here. 3 months ago this would have been appropriate.

  26. nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    I helped Lobaton. He found green grass off a glove.

  27. nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    ICYMI, this was posted on the MikeGonzo post:

    tcostant – Mar 25, 2014 at 1:35 PM
    Looks like Jordan won the final spot. Saw this on the Nats offical website as pitchers in the first series.

    “Probable Pitchers: Taylor Jordan vs TBD”

    • natsguy1 - Mar 25, 2014 at 3:29 PM

      This is fascinating. If you click on the “probable pitchers” tab, there’s even this narrative, which suggests this is more than just a mistaken entry:

      “Jordan competed against right-handers Tanner Roark and Chris Young for the fifth spot and won the job during the final week of Spring Training. For the spring, he was 2-2 with a 3.92 ERA.”

      • nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 3:44 PM

        Good pickup. Mark, what do you have to say?

      • tcostant - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:52 PM

        They removed it. I did see the proble pitcher writeup earlier too.

  28. nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    Bob Carpenter thinks Stras throws a 92MPH changeup? That was 2010 Bob, this is now. Changeup now in the mid-80’s. FP had to correct him and did it nicely.

    • David Proctor - Mar 25, 2014 at 3:08 PM

      According to Fangraphs, last year Strasburg’s hardest fastball was 99.1 and his hardest changeup was 94.2. His average fastball was 95.3 and his average changeup was 88.1. I know for a fact Strasburg threw some changeups at 91 and 92 last year, so it’ excusable. The gun has been slow in Viera though so that 92 was probably really 94 or 95.

      • nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 3:42 PM

        OK, my recollection of last year not so great if he threw changeups in the low 90’s consistently last year. I knew his average was about 87 to 88. In 2010 thats where his changeup sat on average in the low 90s as his fastballs were 96+

        FP like I said handled it well and educated Bob and everyone watching.

  29. Danny - Mar 25, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    Blevins is nails.

  30. nats128 - Mar 25, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    Span with a cool catch that is being challenged as the umps called it a trap.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 25, 2014 at 3:56 PM

      If only the Nats had replay last year. Glad to see it’s working for the Nats.

      • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:06 PM

        From Gameday:

        “Nationals challenge (trap play) upheld, play overturned: Andrew Brown flies out to center fielder Denard Span.”

        I like that they specify the challenge and outcome in the play-by-play summary.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:10 PM

        I like how they get it right.

  31. Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:00 PM

    Zim baby!

  32. tcostant - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    I wonder if Werth will have an issue with this:

    • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:25 PM

      Do any of his last longer than that?

      On a related note (wakka wakka wakka!), I really want Werth to add “Help on the Way” by the Grateful Dead to his list of walk up music. The intro has great urgency, and if you spliced in the first line of the last verse (“Help on the way!”) right after it, it would be perfect.

      Imagine “Help on the way!” at 11 seconds instead of “Paradise waits.” It would end at almost exactly 15 seconds, too.

      I asked Werth at Fan Fest if he liked the Dead and he said yes, so I don’t think this is an impossible hope…just gotta get a bug in his ear somehow (wink wink!).

      • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:30 PM

        If anyone *does* get a bug in his ear, tell him I’ll give him a Steal Your Nats sticker (my old avatar) if he does this 😉.

        Speaking of, I believe I owe a few of you said stickers…sjm for one…anyone else? I will be at the game on 4/5 and will try my damndest to remember to bring them.

      • Section 222 - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:07 PM

        One sticker for me!

      • sjm308 - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:14 PM

        eric – i think you know I am challenged to turn this damn thing on but I love music and thanks for getting that up here (hear?) –

        I had forgotten about the sticker – not sure what seats I have for opening day but for the exhib. and on Saturday I will be in 308 row E seats 1-5 (actually not all 5 but we move around in them)
        Will be great to meet you!!

      • Eric - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:52 PM

        sjm – I just copied the YouTube URL into the comment area; I wasn’t expecting the embedded video… That was automatic.

        Also, I won’t be there opening day, just 4/5 (Saturday). Will either of you be there that day? Gotta check where my seats are after the boys go to bed.

  33. Jacob Rasch - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    Our game recap here (sorry for missing the last couple days):





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)...

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