Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Back to Citi Field tonight for Game 2 between the Nats and Mets.
Olsen, to be honest, looked finished. His fastball rarely hit 90 mph, and even when it did, opposing hitters battered it around the park. I keep thinking back to his March 23 start against the Tigers in Lakeland, when he gave up six runs and 12 hits in only 4 1/3 innings, retiring only 12 of 25 batters faced. Worse, Jim Riggleman felt afterward that was "the best he's thrown" all spring.
Boy, were we all wrong. When he takes the mound tonight against the Mets, Olsen will carry with him a 2-1 record, 3.54 ERA and one earned run allowed over his last 20 1/3 innings. The turnaround has been remarkable. For one thing, he's throwing better pitches than he did all spring, combining a well-located fastball that now regularly tops 90 mph with a sharp-biting slider and an effective changeup that have confounded opposing hitters.
Maybe more importantly, Olsen is pitching with purpose. As Riggleman puts it, it's like every pitch he throws is the most important one of his career. That strategy has worked well for Olsen his last three times out. Can he sustain it? We'll find out in a few hours when he returns to the mound at Citi Field.
Check back for updates throughout...
NATIONALS AT METS
Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of rain, 54 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
SS Ian Desmond
RF Willy Taveras
P Scott Olsen
CF Angel Pagan
2B Luis Castillo
SS Jose Reyes
LF Jason Bay
3B David Wright
1B Ike Davis
RF Jeff Francoeur
C Rod Barajas
P Jonathan Niese
7:11 p.m. -- We're underway with a strike from Jonathan Niese to Nyjer Morgan. It's overcast but no rain ... yet.
7:16 p.m. -- Just when you thought Adam Dunn would never, ever swing at a 3-0 pitch ... he clobbers one from Niese down the right-field line for a three-run homer. Nothing wrong with having the green light there. Dunn knew Niese didn't want to walk the bases loaded for Josh Willingham, so he zeroed in on a fastball, got it and then mashed it over the fence. Nats lead 3-0.
7:25 p.m. -- Looks like Scott Olsen is picking up right where he left off. Cruised through the bottom of the first, only nine pitches (six strikes).
7:34 p.m. -- Cristian Guzman has drawn a walk in consecutive innings. I repeat: Cristian Guzman has drawn a walk in consecutive innings. Film at 11.
7:44 p.m. -- Brief moment of panic there for the Nats. David Wright smoked a comebacker off Scott Olsen's left ankle, and the pitcher stayed on a ground for a while in pain. But he appears to be OK and remains in the game.
7:52 p.m. -- A scary second inning for Olsen turns out OK. He rebounded from the comebacker to make a nice play on Ike Davis' grounder back up the middle, starting a 1-6-3 double play. Jeff Francoeur did send a single to left to bring home one run, but Olsen shook that off to get out of the inning without allowing anything more. He continues to pound the strike zone: 22 of 30 pitches so far. Nats lead 3-1 after two.
8:08 p.m. -- So, of course after writing about how bad the Nats' right fielders have been at the plate, Willy Taveras is 2-for-2.
8:33 p.m. -- For those interested in Jason Marquis' rehab start tonight at Potomac ... he allowed three runs and six hits over 3 2/3 innings. All three runs and five of the hits came in the second inning against Winston-Salem. Marquis also walked one batter and hit another. More details in another item I just posted on the homepage.
8:37 p.m. -- Another big hit for Pudge Rodriguez brings home two more runs, puts the Nats up 5-1 and knocks Niese from the game in the fifth inning. Rodriguez is 1-for-3 tonight, so his batting average has actually dropped from .393 to .391.
8:42 p.m. -- Ian Desmond's overall numbers may not look spectacular, but he's coming through with big hits when the Nats need them. With an RBI single just now, he put his team up 6-1 in the fifth. Desmond's batting average with runners in scoring position: .364. His average in all other situations: .203.
9:01 p.m. -- Scott Olsen is nowhere near as sharp tonight as he was in his last three starts. But he's finding a way to get outs when he needs to. Despite eight hits allowed in five innings, the Mets have scored only once. Nats still lead 6-1 heading to the sixth.
9:41 p.m. -- Nice relief work from Tyler Walker and Doug Slaten, keeping the lead at 6-2 after seven. Walker came on for Olsen in the sixth and retired both batters he faced. Slaten then pitched the seventh and despite putting two men on got out of it thanks in large part to a double-play grounder, with a nice turn from Ian Desmond. If they can maintain this four-run lead, the Nats might be able to avoid "Clip 'n' Save" for a second straight night.
9:57 p.m. -- Or not. Brian Bruney can't retire any of the three batters he faces in the eighth (a single, a double and an Ian Desmond error) so here comes Tyler Clippard to try to bail the Nats out once again. It's 6-3 with two on, nobody out and Jeff Francoeur at the plate. Hold your breath.
10:08 p.m. -- The bad news: We're now tied. The good news: Clippard now has a chance to improve to 7-0.
10:12 p.m. -- We're no longer tied. With their fourth straight hit off Clippard, the Mets have taken a 7-6 lead, knocking the almighty setup man out of the game. Miguel Batista coming on to try to clean this mess up. Even if Batista gets out of it, the Nats will be facing K-Rod in the ninth. Due up: Willingham, Pudge, Desmond.
10:18 p.m. -- Did someone turn back the clock to 2009 without telling me? Sheesh.
10:24 p.m. -- Not sure what angle MASN has on this replayed foul ball/home run by Ike Davis, but the SNY broadcast shows it's clearly foul.
10:34 p.m. -- A heartbreaking, 8-6 loss for the Nationals. First real crushing loss of the season. Very 2009-esque with the bullpen and defensive meltdown. Now we'll see how they handle this. Do they come back strong tomorrow and brush it off, or do they let this turn into something bigger?