Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Chien-Ming Wang makes his first start in two years tonight at Nationals Park.
By now, you know Wang's story, how he suffered a major shoulder injury, signed with the Nats in Feb. 2010, missed the entire season, re-signed with the Nats last winter, showed few signs of progress and then finally began a rehab assignment last month.
So, what should you expect from the 31-year-old right-hander? Don't get your hopes up too much. In an ideal world, Wang would be able to spend more time in the minors building up stamina and refining his pitches. Unfortunately, you're only allowed 30 days on rehab before you have to be activated off the DL, so he's here now even though he's probably not 100 percent ready. The Nats will monitor him closely, limiting him to about 80 pitches, and not putting too much stock in this one performance.
The Nationals needed to remove someone from the 25-man roster to make room for Wang, and that someone is Roger Bernadina, who has been optioned to Class AAA Syracuse. Interesting move in that it leaves the club with a 13-man pitching staff (for the moment) and only Rick Ankiel and Jerry Hairston as center fielders (for the moment). Suffice it to say, there's probably more moves to come this weekend.
Updates to come...
METS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Mostly sunny, 96 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to RF
STARTING LINEUPS6:53 p.m. -- Chien-Ming Wang's significance to the people of Taiwan cannot be overstated. There are about 40 media members (including 10 different TV stations) here tonight specifically to cover him, and they followed his every move as he walked to the bullpen to stretch and warm up. There are lots of fans here waving Taiwanese flags. And Jason Yuan, Taiwan's ambassador to the United States, was presented with a Wang jersey before the game by Davey Johnson.
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
LF Laynce Nix
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
P Chien-Ming Wang
SS Jose Reyes
2B Justin Turner
1B Daniel Murphy
3B David Wright
CF Angel Pagan
LF Jason Bay
RF Lucas Duda
C Ronny Paulino
P Dillon Gee
7:06 p.m. -- We are underway. Chien-Ming Wang's first big-league pitch in more than two years is an 89-mph fastball to Jose Reyes for ball one. It's a scorching 101 degrees at first pitch, heat index 105.
7:20 p.m. -- Well, that wasn't very pretty to watch. Wang walked Reyes on four pitches, and things got worse from that point on. Allowed four straight singles, including one off the right-field wall. By the time he finally got out of the inning, four Mets had crossed the plate. He threw 24 pitches, though his velocity was pretty good: Consistently hit 90 mph, topped out at 93. Obviously had some jitters out there. We'll see if those are out of the way by the time he takes the mound for the second inning. The Nats, meanwhile, are staring at a big 4-0 deficit already.
7:34 p.m. -- OK, that was much better. Wang retired the side in the second without letting a ball out of the infield and striking out Dillon Gee. He's retired five straight since letting the game's first five batters reach base. Has thrown 37 total pitches, 22 strikes.
7:47 p.m. -- Wang continues to look better with each passing inning. He's now retired eight of the last nine batters he's faced, the only one to reach David Wright on a bloop single. He struck out Daniel Murphy and is keeping the ball on the ground for the most part. Forty-eight pitches (30 strikes) through three innings. The Nats' lineup, on the other hand, has done ZILCH against Gee so far.
8:05 p.m. -- The Nats defense did in Wang in the fourth, with Espinosa and Werth each charged with errors, leading to two unearned runs. Werth's booting of a base hit to right-center, though, actually helped the Nats' cause, but it allowed Ankiel to pick up the ball and gun down Jason Bay at the plate with a beautiful throw. Still, it's 6-0 Mets in the middle of the fourth, Wang has allowed four earned runs on eight hits, and Tom Gorzelanny is warming in the pen. That could be in for him.
8:15 p.m. -- And the Nats are on the board, scoring a pair thanks to Reyes' wild throw on what should have been an inning-ending double play off Nix's bat. It's 6-2 after four, and Tom Gorzelanny is entering from the bullpen for the top of the fifth. So Wang is finished. His line: 4 ip, 8 h, 6 r, 4 er, 1 bb, 2 k, 60 pitches, 39 strikes. Also, Ian Desmond has been replaced by Alex Cora as part of a double-switch.
8:29 p.m. -- If nothing else, the Nats are trying to make this interesting. Ramos doubles to lead off the fifth and scores later on Ankiel's sac fly. All of a sudden, it's 6-3 Mets and this is at least resembling a competitive ballgame.
8:35 p.m. -- By the way, there's nothing fishy going on with the Desmond move earlier. It was a straight double-switch to ensure Gorzelanny could pitch multiple innings without having to bat. Desmond is sitting on the bench right now.
8:43 p.m. -- So much for the Nats making a game of this. The Mets got two runs back in the top of the sixth of Gorzelanny, racking up three doubles. It's 8-3 now.
8:56 p.m. -- Golden opportunity for the Nats in the bottom of the sixth, with the bases loaded, two outs, Ramos at the plate and a tiring Gee on the mound. Ramos smoked a line drive, too, unfortunately right at Pagan in center field. So it remains 8-3 heading to the seventh, with Ryan Mattheus strolling to the mound to the squeals of Katy Perry.
9:08 p.m. -- I don't know what was said on the radio broadcast about Drew Storen, but he's sitting in the Nats bullpen right now. Everyone needs to just calm down. Boy, I can't wait for 4 p.m. Sunday to pass.
9:22 p.m. -- Meanwhile, we've reached the middle of the eighth inning here. It's still 8-3, thanks to two scoreless innings of relief from Mattheus. The Nats have knocked Gee out of the game, but they haven't been able to close the gap yet. Time's running out.
9:40 p.m. -- Things are getting kind of interesting here. The Nats have scored twice in the bottom of the eighth, thanks in part to a pinch-hit single by Jesus Flores. Except Flores was the last of Davey Johnson's four available bench players tonight. Which means either Flores or Wilson Ramos is going to have to play another position in the ninth inning. Before we figure that one out, though, Danny Espinosa is stepping to the plate with the bases loaded and the Nats suddenly trailing only 8-5.
9:49 p.m. -- OK, that wasn't as complicated as I thought. Forgot that Hairston had hit for the pitcher. So he just takes over at shortstop, with Sean Burnett now in the 9-hole. Sorry for the confusion. Meanwhile, the Nats' rally fizzled as both Espinosa and Zimmerman struck out, Zim on a borderline check swing. Still 8-5 going to the ninth.
9:55 p.m. -- Nice 1-2-3 inning for Burnett, who needed that. So we go to the bottom of the ninth, the Nats trailing by three runs, with Morse, Werth and Nix due up.
10:01 p.m. -- And that's your ballgame. Final score: 8-5, as the Nationals drop their sixth straight. You know, if not for the first five batters of the night, this would have been a pretty good game. Alas, they count 'em all at this level.