Apr 2, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT
NEW YORK — More than 48 hours after their wild, Opening Day victory, the Nationals are back at it tonight, ready to begin the real grind of the baseball season. They’ll be without Wilson Ramos, who the club officially announced had surgery today to remove the hamate bone in his left hand, and that has prompted some lineup changes from Matt Williams.
Get a load of this one: Anthony Rendon is batting second tonight. Adam LaRoche is hitting cleanup. Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond are batting sixth and seventh, respectively. Let that sink in for a moment. If you’re wondering (as I was): Harper has hit lower than fifth only four times in his career. His very first four games in the major leagues, when he hit seventh. Very interested to hear Williams’ thought process here.
Meanwhile, Gio Gonzalez makes his season debut, looking to continue his longstanding dominance at Citi Field. In his career in this ballpark, the lefty is 4-0 with a 1.58 ERA. You’ll remember his last start here in September, when he came within one chopper over first base of a no-hitter.
Lots of updates to come, so please check back…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at NEW YORK METS
Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, XM 184, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 55 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to RF
CF Denard Span
2B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Bryce Harper
SS Ian Desmond
C Jose Lobaton
LHP Gio Gonzalez
CF Juan Lagares
2B Wilmer Flores
3B David Wright
RF Curtis Granderson
LF Chris Young
1B Josh Satin
C Travis d’Arnaud
SS Ruben Tejada
RHP Bartolo Colon
7:11 p.m. — And we are underway on a 51-degree evening in Queens. Not nearly as many fans here tonight as on Monday.
7:18 p.m. — A 2-out single up the middle from Jayson Werth was all the Nats could muster in the top of the first against Colon, who struck out Denard Span looking, got Anthony Rendon to pop out and Adam LaRoche to line out. So that means Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond will lead off the top of the second. For those wondering about tonight’s lineup, here’s Matt Williams’ explanation for hitting Harper sixth: “I think it takes a little bit of pressure off of Bryce. It allows him to use his legs, and I think that’s important. When he wants to use his legs. Now, we look at tonight as an example. Bartolo is really quick to the plate, so will there be opportunities to do that? You never know. But we want to give him the option to do it. He’s a five-tool guy, so he can beat that other team in many, many ways. We want to give him the opportunity to do that. Now, from a managers’ perspective you say: ‘If I hit him second or third in front of Jayson and Zim, do I really want him trying to steal second when we’re one swing away from a two-run homer or a three-run homer?’ That’s the logic. Most of all, I want him to be free and play and not have those boundaries on him. And I think, for me, over the long run he will drive in big runs for us.”
7:28 p.m. — Gio Gonzalez battled Juan Lagares through an 8-pitch at-bat to begin the bottom of the first, and the Mets leadoff man won that battle. Lagares tripled to deep right-center, setting himself up to score on David Wright’s sac fly a short while later. So the Nats again find themselves in an early hole, down 1-0 after one.
7:35 p.m. — A couple of really well-struck balls from Zimmerman and Desmond in the top of the second, but each was hit directly at a Mets outfielder. Harper, meanwhile, grounded out to short. So nothing doing there for the Nats. Meanwhile, Mets left fielder Chris Young (who missed Opening Day with a quad strain) has already been pulled from tonight’s game. Andrew Brown is back out there now.
7:47 p.m. — Another well-struck ball by Span in the top of the third, but Lagares (who can really fly) tracked it down. So that’s seven in a row retired by Colon, who has tossed three scoreless innings so far, allowing just one hit. Gonzalez enjoyed a 1-2-3 bottom of the second and has looked sharp aside from that leadoff Lagares triple in the first. Still 1-0 Mets heading to the bottom of the third.
7:54 p.m. — Ryan Zimmerman’s first semi-regular attempt to throw this season resulted in his first error of the season. Zimmerman went to his left to scoop Lagares’ grounder, spun around and threw low and wide to first base. It wasn’t pretty at all and looked very much like his throws from the first half of 2013. It should be noted he has made a couple of very nice throws when charging in to scoop slow rollers, but that was the first time he had attempting a more-normal throw from that position.
8:05 p.m. — Well, what do you know? No. 3 hitter Jayson Werth and No. 4 hitter Adam LaRoche just hit back-to-back doubles, each of them to the opposite field, in the top of the fourth to tie this game 1-1. Apparently there is no off position on the Matt Williams genius switch.
8:33 p.m. — It took 15 innings, but we’ve got our first Sweet Fancy Moses moment of the season. Before we get to that, though, have to mention Ian Desmond’s laser beam of a home run to left field on the first pitch of the top of the fifth. That put the Nats up 2-1. OK, but the really big moment came two batters later, when Gio Gonzalez launched a drive of his own deep to left. He went into a home run trot, but then when the ball ricocheted back onto the field, he started hustling to second base for an apparent double. But then Andrew Brown didn’t go after the ball, so Gio really took off for third base thinking he was going for a triple. But then second base ump Todd Tichenor signaled it was a home run, at which point Gio put it into fifth gear and mock-hustled all the way across the plate to make it look like he had just hit an inside-the-park homer. And before he was even two steps past the plate, he was already joking with fans seated right behind the backstop, a huge grin on his face. I mean, seriously, that might have been the greatest home run in the history of home runs. And it has given the Nats a 3-1 lead in the fifth.
8:47 p.m. — Just when it looked like Gio was in trouble on the mound, Harper came to his rescue. The kid just retrieved a ball in the left-field corner that took a weird bounce and fired a perfect strike to the plate to nail Ruben Tejada and end the fifth inning in dramatic fashion. Mercy.
9:08 p.m. — Six innings down and Gio Gonzalez is cruising. He has allowed just the one early run on three hits and has been in control all along. Curious to see if Matt Williams lets him go back out for the seventh or not. Still 3-1 Nats.
9:21 p.m. — An insurance run for the Nats in the top of the seventh, courtesy back-to-back doubles by Span and Rendon. Though Span didn’t score until a wild pitch by Gonzalez Germen. Meanwhile, Drew Storen is in for the bottom of the seventh. Gio’s final line: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K and 1 HR. Which he hit, not gave up. Impressive season debut for him. Nats up 4-1 at the stretch.
9:32 p.m. — Drew Storen, ladies and gentlemen. He has now faced six batters this season, retiring all six and striking out four. That’s one way to put to rest any doubts after last season’s struggles. It’s also a friendly reminder to everyone: PAY NO ATTENTION TO SPRING TRAINING STATS! Still 4-1 heading to the eighth.
9:50 p.m. — And now Tyler Clippard strikes out three of the four batters he faces in the eighth. That’ll work. It remains a 4-1 lead heading to the ninth as Rafael Soriano warms for potentially his first save opportunity of the year.
10:01 p.m. — Make it 5-1 as Span triples and scores on Rendon’s groundball. Which means there’s no save situation now. Which means Soriano takes a seat and Craig Stammen now prepares to pitch the bottom of the ninth.
10:10 p.m. — That’ll do it. Stammen finishes off a 5-1 victory for the Nationals, who are 2-0 on the young season.
NL EAST STANDINGS
FRI: Giants at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 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: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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