Apr 3, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Having already won the first two games at Citi Field, and with Jordan Zimmermann a late scratch due to a nasty stomach virus, the Nationals had to feel like anything positive that happened today would be the cherry on top of a successful season-opening series. Well, this turned into a whopper of a hot fudge sundae, because the Nats once again did everything right in trouncing the Mets to complete a series sweep.
Tanner Roark wasn’t fazed at all by his emergency assignment. Though he gave up two quick runs in the first, the right-hander was fantastic after that, completing six solid innings to put himself in line for the win. Roark’s teammates did the rest, pounding out eight runs and 13 hits off New York’s pitching staff. It took a little while to get going against Zack Wheeler, but the Nationals managed three runs in six innings off the impressive young right-hander.
The real damage, once again, came against the Mets’ beleaguered bullpen. Ryan Zimmerman’s 4-hit afternoon highlighted an all-around offensive effort, giving Matt Williams ample opportunity to breathe easy as he managed himself to a 3-0 record to begin his career.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: There were no shortage of big hits in this game, and Zimmerman’s 4-hit afternoon (including a monster home run) was certainly impressive. But let’s highlight Danny Espinosa, whose performance was plenty significant itself. Given a chance to start at second base — something Williams intends to do with regularity — Espinosa showed the kind of hitting approach he displayed all spring and impressed team officials. Swinging left-handed, he clubbed two opposite-field doubles off the wall, then also struck another ball well to left-center field that was caught. It’s only one series, but Espinosa’s key walk on Monday and today’s hitting performance certainly suggests he has made some major adjustments since his demotion last season. That can only be considered a good thing for the Nationals.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Roark was thrust into a tough spot, finding out this morning he would be starting a few hours later because of Zimmermann’s illness. But there are few pitchers who appear to deal with events like this better than Roark, who seems to shrug off everything and just goes out and pitches. He did just that today, battling back after a shaky bottom of the first. The right-hander needed a whopping 31 pitches to get through that frame, allowing two runs. But just when you thought he was destined for a short afternoon, Roark righted the ship. He needed only 64 pitches to complete five scoreless innings after that, another impressive effort from the young hurler who impressed so many during his rookie season in 2013.
KEY STAT: The Nationals scored 12 runs in 9 1/3 innings against Mets relievers during this series.
UP NEXT: After an impressive road sweep, the Nationals head back to D.C. for Friday’s much-anticipated home opener against the Braves. They’ll face one very big question, though: Who’s their starting pitcher? Will Jordan Zimmermann be good to go after getting scratched today with a stomach virus? If not, will Matt Williams go with the bullpen game, started by Craig Stammen? Either way, we know the Braves will send right-hander David Hale to the mound for the 1:05 p.m. tilt at Nationals Park.
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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)...
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