Mar 31, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT
NEW YORK — As I write this at 9:30 a.m., the tarp is on the field here. The temperature is 36 degrees. There’s a light rain — and even a couple of icy-looking things — falling from the sky. And yet … let’s play ball!
Yes, it’s Opening Day, and they are expected to play today at Citi Field, where the weather is supposed to clear out before first pitch at 1:10 p.m. Stephen Strasburg makes his third straight Opening Day start; he allowed one run over 14 total innings the last two years. Dillon Gee gets the nod for the Mets, taking over the ace role with Matt Harvey and Jonathan Niese injured. Second baseman Daniel Murphy also won’t be in the lineup today, having left the team to be with his wife, who is due to give birth.
The Nats’ lineup, meanwhile, has some serious wrinkles to it. Matt Williams tried all kinds of different looks out this spring. He decided to try something completely different today. Ryan Zimmerman hits second. Wilson Ramos hits cleanup! Bryce Harper hits fifth. Adam LaRoche hits seventh. (Oh, and Anthony Rendon is the starting second baseman, not that anyone is surprised by that.)
Lots of updates to come, so please check back often…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at NEW YORK METS
Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 1:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, MLB.com
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 46 degrees, Wind 18 mph in from LF
CF Denard Span
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Jayson Werth
C Wilson Ramos
LF Bryce Harper
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam LaRoche
2B Anthony Rendon
RHP Stephen Strasburg
2B Eric Young Jr.
CF Juan Lagares
3B David Wright
RF Curtis Granderson
LF Andrew Brown
1B Ike Davis
C Travis d’Arnaud
SS Ruben Tejada
RHP Dillon Gee
1:13 p.m. — The sun is shining, the temperature is up to 44 degrees and the 2014 season is underway! Dillon Gee fires a fastball low to Denard Span for ball one.
1:22 p.m. — Well, here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of this new-look lineup. The good: Ryan Zimmerman drilled a 1-out single to left to get things going. The bad: Jayson Werth struck out and Wilson Ramos tapped a weak grounder to third to end the inning. The ugly: Bryce Harper will now lead off the top of the second, with nobody on base. Oh well, here’s Stephen Strasburg taking the mound.
1:37 p.m. — Wow, that was unexpected. Strasburg put himself in a jam after allowing one-out singles to Juan Lagares and David Wright, but then he froze Curtis Granderson with a 2-2 fastball at the knees. All that stood between Strasburg and a scoreless first inning was Andrew Brown, a late replacement for the ill Chris Young in left field. So what happened? Well, Strasburg grooved a 2-2 fastball, and Brown absolutely destroyed it. The ball sailed way over the wall in deep left-center, into a stiff wind. Shocking. The Nats trail 3-0 after one, and Strasburg has already thrown 25 pitches.
1:50 p.m. — Man oh man, what an eventful start to the season. And what a potentially devastating moment when Harper went hard into second base and wound up getting Eric Young’s knee to the side of his head. Harper went down in a heap and stayed down on the ground for a good minute as Matt Williams and Lee Kuntz raced out to check on him. Harper sat up as Kuntz examined him, then walked off the field under his own power. Moments later, Adam LaRoche destroyed a 2-2 fastball from Gee onto the concourse in deep right-center. So just like that, the Nats trimmed the lead to 3-2. As for Harper … he stayed in the game and re-took his position in left field for the bottom of the second. I’m sure the Nats conducted concussion tests before letting Harper stay in the game. But, wow. That was scary.
1:59 p.m. — Meanwhile, Strasburg is laboring. He walked d’Arnaud to lead off the bottom of the second, and that came back to haunt him when d’Arnaud scored on Young’s sac fly. So make it 4-2 Mets after two wild innings.
2:18 p.m. — Strasburg hasn’t been himself so far today, but he still does have the ability to take over a game all by himself. He did so in the bottom of the third, striking out Granderson, Brown and d’Arnaud, giving him six for the afternoon. He also has allowed five hits and two walks. With his pitch count at 61, the question now becomes how far the Nats ace can go today. Still 4-2 Mets after three.
2:26 p.m. — Gee has settled down himself. He’s now retired eight straight since the LaRoche homer in the top of the second. Harper flied out to left in his first at-bat since the collision. We move to the bottom of the fourth, still 4-2 Mets.
2:32 p.m. — A 9-pitch bottom of the fourth for Strasburg, which is exactly what he needed. He’s got eight K’s now through four, his pitch count at 70.
2:37 p.m. — Make it 11 in a row retired by Gee since the LaRoche homer. The Nats have only two hits through five innings. No matter how Strasburg was pitching, that would be tough to overcome. Onto the bottom of the fifth.
2:45 p.m. — Strasburg has finally settled down. He’s retired seven in a row and is through five innings with nine strikeouts, including another one on a slider to David Wright just now. He’s at 82 pitches through five. The Nats, meanwhile, have the top of the lineup due up in the sixth. Would seem to be a golden opportunity to get back in this thing.
3:02 p.m. — Say this for Strasburg: He struggled early, but he finished strong. He retired 10 in a row and finished with 10 strikeouts. If nothing else, he has given his teammates a chance to rally late. It’s still 4-2 as we go to the seventh.
3:37 p.m. — It’s Chase here taking over as Mark gets started on the Instant Analysis. The top of the seventh brought a good deal of action for the Nats on offense as they tied the game with two outs. The frame began with Ramos striking out before Harper reached on an infield single. Harper was then forced out at second on an infield grounder by Desmond, who reached first safely. LaRoche walked after that to set up two men on with Rendon due up. Rendon curved a RBI double down the right field line into foul territory to score Desmond. A pinch-hitting Nate McLouth drew a walk on Carlos Torres to load the bases, and then Mets’ reliever Scott Rice walked Span to score the tying run. Eight straight balls between Torres and Rice knotted the game at 4-4. Tejada, Duda, and Young, Jr. are due up next for the Mets in the bottom of the seventh.
3:44 p.m. — Drew Storen replaced Strasburg in the bottom of the seventh and got out of it 1-2-3. Tejada struck out looking, Duda flew out in foul territory, and Young struck out swinging. Jose Lobaton replaced Ramos at the start of the frame, by the way, so keep an eye out for that. He was due up second in the next inning. Whether it is an injury or not, we’ll see.
3:48 p.m. — Nothing going for the Nats in the top of the eighth as Werth, Lobaton and Harper all went down quickly. Werth and Harper struck out while Lobaton flew out to center field. Tyler Clippard will now take over for Storen. Up next for New York are Lagares, Wright and Granderson.
4:00 p.m. — This game is no longer tied as the Mets jumped back on top thanks to a solo home run by Lagares. He took a 0-2 pitch from Tyler Clippard over the left field fence. Clip went 1-2-3 with the next three batters, but the Nats are down to their final three outs. It will be Desmond, LaRoche and Rendon.
4:08 p.m. — And we’re back to being tied thanks to a clutch RBI double by Span. Desmond led off with a single before two quick outs brought a pinch-hitting Danny Espinosa to the plate. Espinosa began the count down 1-2 on Bobby Parnell, but then worked a walk. Span came up and doubled to left-center to bring home Desmond and put two men in scoring position. At 5-5 Zimmerman flew out to center field to end the frame. Aaron Barrett is now in to make his MLB debut.
4:25 p.m. — It was a tough initial test for Barrett in his first ever appearance, but he passed with flying colors. He got both Quintanilla and Tejada to strike out swinging, and d’Arnaud to fly out to right field. On to the 10th inning we go with Werth, Lobaton and Harper due up next.
4:43 p.m. — The seesaw that is this game tipped back towards the Nationals who are now up 6-5 in the top of the 10th. Desmond hit a sac fly to center field to score Werth for the go-ahead run. Werth led off with a single and was followed by Lobaton who also reached on a base hit. Both runners moved into scoring position on a passed ball thrown by Jeurys Familia. John Lannan will now take over with two outs.
4:48 p.m. — It is a close game no more. Rendon smacked a three-run bomb off Lannan to left field and it’s now 9-5 Nats. Mets fans are heading for the exits and screaming not-so-nice things at the former Nationals lefty on their way out.
4:58 p.m. — Jerry Blevins gave up a two-run home run to David Wright with two outs, but the Nats held on for their first win of the 2014 season. 9-7 is your final score.
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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.
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