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[UPDATED] Instant analysis: Nats 5, Mets 1

Apr 2, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT

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Updated at 11:15 p.m.

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: After the pomp and circumstance (and wackiness) of Opening Day, and then an abrupt day of rest that followed, the Nationals began the true baseball season tonight, the long slog of 162 games in 182 days that tests a team both physically and mentally. If this performance was an indication of things to come, the Nationals have plenty of reason to be optimistic.

With a balanced offensive attack and a quietly dominant pitching performance from Gio Gonzalez, the Nats were in control throughout, beating the Mets to improve to 2-0 on the season. Gonzalez (6 innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball) once again dominated in New York, not only with his arm but also with his bat. The lefty crushed his third career homer, a solo shot in the top of the fifth that included more than a couple moments of hilarity as Gonzalez tried to figure out whether the ball had actually cleared the fence or was still in play.

Not wanting to push his starter too far in the season’s first week, manager Matt Williams turned things over to his bullpen for the final three innings. That unit didn’t disappoint. Drew Storen retired the side in the seventh, striking out two. (He has now retired all six batters faced this season.) Tyler Clippard struck out three in the eighth, bouncing back from a shaky appearance on Monday. And once the Nationals scored an insurance run to remove the possibility of a save situation, Craig Stammen pitched the ninth, closing out a solid, all-around victory for the Nationals.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Williams filled out an interesting lineup card, one that surely had plenty of people scratching their heads. Adam LaRoche hitting cleanup, with Bryce Harper hitting sixth and Ian Desmond seventh? Well, it worked on this night. LaRoche doubled in the Nats’ first run with a nice, opposite-field poke in the top of the fourth. Desmond belted his first homer of the season on the first pitch of the fifth. Jayson Werth, hitting in his more-conventional 3-hole, rapped out four hits, including a double and an RBI single.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Gonzalez’s antics at the plate might have draw the most attention (and laughs) but his performance on the mound was more impressive. The left-hander made one mistake right off the bat, allowing a leadoff triple to Juan Lagares in the bottom of the first. After that, he was in complete control. Gonzalez allowed only two more hits the rest of the night, walked only one and struck out six during a highly effective and efficient outing. In doing so, he continued his mastery at Citi Field, where he’s now 5-0 with a 1.57 ERA in 7 career starts.

DEFENSIVE HIGHLIGHT: When Harper picks up a ball in left field and prepares to fire it toward the plate, it’s impossible not to rise to the edge of your seat. Harper might throw a bullet to the plate, or he might throw a rainbow to the backstop. In the fifth inning tonight, he fired a bullet, perfectly placed for Jose Lobaton to make the catch and tag Ruben Tejada for the final out of the inning.

KEY STAT: The Nationals’ pitching staff has recorded 31 strikeouts, the most-ever in modern baseball history through a club’s first two games of the season.

QUOTABLE: “With everything coming out of spring and a day off, it’s easy to have a letdown. But they didn’t. They were ready to go today, which was great.” — Matt Williams

UP NEXT: The series concludes Thursday afternoon with a matinee at Citi Field. Jordan Zimmermann, coming off an All-Star season in which he led the NL with 19 wins, takes the mound for his first start of 2014. The Mets go with young right-hander Zack Wheeler, one of their long-term building blocks. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. EDT.

  1. MicheleS - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:12 PM

    WOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOO!!! 2-0 and a Gio homer!

    • natinalsgo - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:18 PM

      I love seeing that post!

      • Eugene in Oregon - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:26 PM

        Ditto.

      • sjm308 - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:34 PM

        AMEN! were you there?

  2. janebeard - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    I am so happy, I love my Nats.

  3. Danny - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    Damn straight. Just replace that Bryce guy.

    • veejh - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:24 PM

      Oh, come on. It’s game 2.

      • Danny - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:29 PM

        Sarcasm of course. Wadlez from the ol’ ESPN boards btw. RIP

      • veejh - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:31 PM

        Wazzup Wadlez!

      • Danny - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:33 PM

        Excited for our Nats! Miss those boards though. Good times.

      • veejh - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:37 PM

        Yeah…bummer. I still mess around on SI. I like to jab with the opposing fans.

      • Danny - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:39 PM

        The trolling on the ESPN boards brings the feels. Forgot about the SI boards.

      • veejh - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:43 PM

        SI will be hittin for the Braves series this weekend. I can’t wait til we bang those boys up this season.

      • thenatom - Apr 3, 2014 at 12:05 AM

        Hey Wadlez and Veejh! Miss those boards too, theomackie/natsskinsheels21 here. Probably don’t remember me but I was a long time lurker. Good times.

  4. Joe Seamhead - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    Well played all around.

  5. trochlis318 - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    great game all around, span looked good, rendon looked good, werth looked great, gio did well, storen was great, just a solid solid victory, just need about 95 more like it!

  6. natinalsgo - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    Nats team ERA looks better after this game.

  7. natinalsgo - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:19 PM

    Ray Knight saying a “bad send” by Tueffel on sending Tejada. No way Ray. That was a good send given the situation.

  8. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:24 PM

    Great game… That laser by Bryce…. SWEET!!!!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this one… Let’s get the sweep tomorrow…

    GO NATS!!!

  9. veejh - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    Looks like a repeat season for Werth. I know it’s a long season, but he looks dialed. This is going to be a good year.

  10. therealjohnc - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    Gio did great, considering that the umpire picked his pocket on several pitches – including one fastball that was right. down. the. middle.

    He wasn’t giving anyone the high strike, but man, that one fastball got Gio talking to himself. To his credit (and the Mets’ shame) he regrouped and cruised anyway.

    • veejh - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:30 PM

      Ump was bad. Low zone. Inconsistent. That one pitch down the middle that he didn’t call a strike was ridiculous.

      • sjm308 - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:36 PM

        I wonder if someone reviews games like that. I realize he is a rookie but there were several pitches right down the middle. I would hope that umpires are given some sort of critique about their performance.

      • adcwonk - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:39 PM

        I just saw a couple of replays. There were three really bad ones. One was almost comical: the Gio, Lobaton, *and* the batter all started walking towards the dugout thinking it was a strike.

      • veejh - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:42 PM

        adcwonk….it happened 2 or 3 times.

  11. adcwonk - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    I think they’re all “dialed”. They had all winter long to ruminate on a bummer underperforming season last year.

    Nothing like looking for a sweep, and the guy you have going for you is a guy who won 19 the year before!

    • veejh - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:33 PM

      Harper is not dialed.

      • adcwonk - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:36 PM

        unless he’s over-dialed ;-) he seems a bit jumpy/wired — I suspect he’ll eventually relax and then start tearing the cover off the ball

      • natinalsgo - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:37 PM

        Having LaRoche dialed in makes up for Bryce. You are fine as a team when 5 batter are HOT. RZim and Harper are off and everyone else is ON. RZim will get going. Unlucky BABIP but some bad looking Ks but that’s been Z for a while now.

  12. Danny - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    Saw a tweet that said the Nats pitching staff has the most Ks through the first two games of a season in modern MLB history.

    • veejh - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:38 PM

      Crazy. It is the Mets, though.

      • adcwonk - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:41 PM

        And MW confirmed that he and Cat have been preaching “pitching to contact!”

      • natszee - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:25 PM

        31 K’s in two games! Amazing.

  13. adcwonk - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    MW said that Soriano is still under the weather a bit, wanted to save him, if he could, for tomorrow’s day game.

  14. natinalsgo - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    On MLB Network, Harold Reynolds on top shortstops “Ian Desmond might be taking over the mantle in the Big Leagues” Billy Ripken I think fell off of his chair.

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:33 AM

      I think Billy Ripken is prejudiced against the Nats. Old Oriole flunkie!

      • natinalsgo - Apr 3, 2014 at 6:36 AM

        He is usually so reluctant to say anything nice about the Nats.

  15. Eric - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:56 PM

    As I said in the last thread, I think Span > Rendon could evolve into an excellent 1-2 punch. I would love to see what they can do at 1 and 2 over a long stretch of games.

  16. David Proctor - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:07 PM

    Papelbon just blew a save and is on the verge of losing the game.

    • NatsLady - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:09 PM

      Watching that game also. Papelbon almost beaned a guy.

      • natinalsgo - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:10 PM

        This is fun to watch!

      • natinalsgo - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:13 PM

        Walkoff WALK!!!!!!!!

      • NatsLady - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:13 PM

        I am watching the Texas feed. They found some very unhappy Phillies fans to show. Paps walks in the winning run!!!
        LOL LOL LOL

  17. David Proctor - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:13 PM

    Papelbon walks in the winning run and the Rangers walk-off. Not even close to a strike. Perfect.

  18. David Proctor - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:18 PM

    I think the whole pitch-to-contact vs pitch-to-strikeout thing is misunderstood. I think the idea that McCatty is trying to impart is that if you just make your pitches, the strikeouts will happen organically and if they don’t, it’ll be weak contact. When you try to strike everyone out, it drives up your pitch count. It’s not that they hate strikeouts like some people have acted.

    • natinalsgo - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:30 PM

      I read that was Koufax’s strategy that turned his career around. Instead of trying to be too fine and nibble for K’s he attacked the strike zone.

    • Section 222 - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:53 PM

      I agree. I interpret “pitch to contact” as attack the strike zone, don’t nibble. Trust your defense. Ks don’t drive up pitch counts, walks, hits, and long ABs do. If you throw strikes you force them to swing or take called strikes.

      • letswin3 - Apr 3, 2014 at 12:10 PM

        +1 on both DP and Deuces comments. The guys who think that the hitter just barely fouled off the last pitch on the outside black, and then think that if they go a little further out there they can induce a whiff, are only increasing their pitch count. The pitch to contact theory is that, if you have good stuff (and this must be true, cause you’re here), throw strikes ….. weak contact or strikeouts ensue.

  19. David Proctor - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:27 PM

    Dan Haren just allowed his first baserunner in the 4th inning. Where was this the first half of last year?

    • natinalsgo - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:31 PM

      Don’t get me started. What a huge disappointment.

  20. Candide - Apr 3, 2014 at 4:01 AM

    Don’t look now, but Emilio Bonifacio leads MLB with a .750 batting average after two games.

    • natinalsgo - Apr 3, 2014 at 6:45 AM

      Speaking of old Nats, Kurt Suzuki is batting .500 but behind the dish, he couldn’t corral 3 wild pitches last night and one hit off his mitt for the walk-off wild pitch. He had earlier in the game a throw from the 3rd baseman on a play at the plate that he couldn’t catch and the run scored.

  21. NatsNut - Apr 3, 2014 at 7:08 AM

    My favorite tweet last night:

    Adam Kilgore ‏@AdamKilgoreWP 11h
    The Mets broadcast pointed out an incredible fact: 1,100 PAs into his career, Bryce Harper is still the youngest player on an MLB roster.

    Wow.

    • natinalsgo - Apr 3, 2014 at 7:46 AM

      Here’s mine:

      MicheleS ‏@aNatsFan 9h
      Woot! Nats Win!

      • natinalsgo - Apr 3, 2014 at 7:55 AM

        Best 1 handed tweeter:

        Wilson Abrahan Ramos ‏@WRamosC3 10h
        Lets go nats keep going team #hornsup

      • natinalsgo - Apr 3, 2014 at 7:58 AM

        Hope to see these type of Tweeters lots more this season:

        thereelmarlin ‏@theReelMarlin 44s
        Hey @jamiesonklewiec take back Papelbon. He is an overpaid douche, perfect for the sawx.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 90 64 --
ATLANTA 76 78 14.0
NEW YORK 75 80 15.5
MIAMI 74 80 16.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 84 19.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Saturday's games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (5) 90 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 88 67 2.5
ST. LOUIS 87 68 3.5
-------------------------
SAN FRANCISCO 84 70 6.0 +1.0
PITTSBURGH 83 71 7.0 --
MILWAUKEE 80 75 10.5 3.5
x-Clinched division title
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Saturday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Marlins at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

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.

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