Apr 3, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT
NEW YORK — Well, this wasn’t quite the scenario anyone expected today, with Tanner Roark starting the Nationals’ third game of the season. But with Jordan Zimmermann severely under the weather — he has a fever, was up all night vomiting and is receiving fluids now to combat dehydration — Matt Williams had to call an audible and gave the ball to Roark for this series finale at Citi Field.
Fortunately, Roark is on normal rest. He was supposed to start Saturday’s exhibition game against the Tigers, then wound up throwing an extended bullpen session after that game was rained out. Knowing Tanner, he seems like the type who won’t be fazed by this last-minute switch one bit.
Williams has a couple of lineup changes against Mets flamethrower Zack Wheeler. Bryce Harper, who hit seventh last night, is bumped all the way up the 2-spot today. And Danny Espinosa and Sandy Leon get their first opportunities to start. As has been stated here several times the last few weeks, Espinosa is going to get regular starts at both second base and shortstop, even if that means sitting Anthony Rendon on occasion.
“That’s the biggest challenge,” Williams said this morning. “They both played really well in spring training, and they both earned the right to play. We want to try to make sure that we get both of them opportunities. Anthony’s played really well. Danny’s played really well. He had a great at-bat the other day. We want to make sure that our bench guys have adequate at-bats as well during the course of the season, so they’re fresh and their timing is good. That’s all it is. We feel very confident in Danny and his ability. That’s why he’s starting today.”
Updates to come, so please check back…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at NEW YORK METS
Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 1:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, 1580 AM, XM 185, MLB.com
Weather: Mostly sunny, 52 degrees, Wind 3 mph in from LF
CF Denard Span
LF Bryce Harper
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
3B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Sandy Leon
RHP Tanner Roark
LF Eric Young Jr.
2B Daniel Murphy
3B David Wright
RF Curtis Granderson
1B Lucas Duda
CF Juan Lagares
C Travis d’Arnaud
SS Ruben Tejada
RHP Zack Wheeler
1:11 p.m. — And we’re underway with ball one from Zack Wheeler to Denard Span. Turned into a gorgeous April afternoon here in Flushing, 58 degrees at first pitch.
1:26 p.m. — If nothing else, the Nationals made Wheeler work in the top of the first. He threw 19 pitches to four batters, with Span and Adam LaRoche working the count full. Span’s leadoff walk, though, was the only actual damage inflicted. Bryce Harper and LaRoche each struck out on changeups, so it’s a scoreless inning for the Nats as Tanner Roark takes the mound.
1:43 p.m. — Not a good bottom of the first for Roark. He gave up two runs on three hits and a walk. Worse, he needed 31 pitches to do it. On a day in which the Nats desperately need innings out of Roark, with Ross Detwiler likely unavailable out of the bullpen because Matt Williams might need him to start tomorrow. Now, in Roark’s defense, he got David Wright to loft a routine flyball to center … only to watch in horror as Span lost the ball in the sun. That might have changed the inning entirely, but still this was not a good way to get the afternoon started. It’s 2-0 Mets after one.
1:54 p.m. — And there goes Ryan Zimmerman’s first homer of the season. An absolute bomb deep into the left-field bleachers. And then a few minutes later, Danny Espinosa drilled a laser beam off the left-field wall for a double. Yes, an opposite-field line drive while batting from the left side of the plate. That’s the approach Danny showed all spring, folks, and it’s why Matt Williams and others are so encouraged about him. Espinosa for the season now: 1-for-1 with a double and an 8-pitch walk in a key spot. It’s 2-1 Mets as we go to the bottom of the second.
2:02 p.m. — That’s more like it, as Roark needs only eight pitches to get through the second inning. He’s at 39 pitches total, which is much more manageable.
2:24 p.m. — Even better from Roark in the third, which he completed on seven pitches. So after that 31-pitch first inning, he’s now at a very manageable 46 through three. Meanwhile, Espinosa struck another ball well to the opposite field in the top of the fourth, though this one was caught to end the inning. It remains 2-1 Mets as we head to the bottom of the fourth.
2:48 p.m. — Here come the Nats! Span delivers another clutch hit in the top of the fifth, singling in Leon to tie the game. He is now 4 for his last 5 with a walk, a single, a double and a triple. Hmm, is there such a thing as hitting for the “wraparound cycle?” Then Werth delivers his own RBI single to score Span, giving the Nats a 3-2 lead. So that’s three straight games now in which they’ve put themselves in an early hole and then have come back to take the lead. They obviously won the first two games. We’ll see whether they can hang on here today. 3-2 in the fifth.
3:02 p.m. — Boy, what a nice job by Roark. He just escaped a jam in the bottom of the fifth, getting a double play grounder out of Wright and then striking out Duda with the tying runner in scoring position. That preserves the Nats’ 3-2 lead as we head to the sixth.
3:13 p.m. — Danny Espinosa, ladies and gentlemen. Another rocket of a double to left-center, his second of the day. He’s now 2-for-3 with two doubles and a well-struck flyout to left-center.
3:23 p.m. — Tanner Roark, ladies and gentlemen. He finished his day with a flourish, striking out the final four batters he faced. After that shaky first inning, he was outstanding, finishing with a pitching line of: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 95 pitches, 62 strikes. A standout job by Roark today, given the circumstances. Still 3-2 Nats after six.
3:44 p.m. — Insurance. Times four. The Nats have been taking it out on the Mets bullpen all week, and the story is no different today. LaRoche hit a two-run single off Jeurys Familia. Zimmerman added another RBI single. And another Daniel Murphy error brought home another run. It’s 7-2 at the stretch, and in comes Ross Detwiler from the pen. Interesting, you’ve got to wonder if Matt Williams knows that Jordan Zimmermann is good to go tomorrow. Otherwise, why waste Detwiler in this situation?
4:08 p.m. — Good lord, is the Mets bullpen bad or what? Carlos Torres just walked Werth to load the bases, then walked LaRoche to force in a run. It’s 8-2 Nats now, going to the bottom of the eighth.
4:18 p.m. — Two scoreless innings of relief for Detwiler. A nice bullpen debut for him.
4:30 p.m. — That’s your ballgame. Rafael Soriano closes out an 8-2 Nats victory, completing a season-opening, 3-game sweep of the Mets.
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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