Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg faces the Mets tonight at DigitalDomain Park.
The Nationals' lineup features an interesting twist, something we could see from time to time this season: Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa all starting, batting 1-through-3 in manager Davey Johnson's lineup. Johnson believes he can get Lombardozzi 300 at-bats over the full season if he plays multiple positions, and one of those positions will be third base (with Ryan Zimmerman getting the occasional day off).
Johnson also acknowledged today he has considered giving Lombardozzi some time in the outfield. He hasn't spoken to the rookie infielder yet about it, but Johnson likens Lombardozzi to Ben Zobrist, the Rays' super utilityman who came up as a middle infielder but has seen considerable time in the outfield so far in his career. Certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward...
If you've got the MLB.tv online package, you can watch tonight's game live. If you've got the urge to stay up until 3 a.m., you watch it tape delayed on MLB Network. Everyone else can just check back right here as I provide updates throughout live from DigitalDomain Park...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. NEW YORK METS
Where: DigitalDomain Park, Port St. Lucie
Gametime: 6:05 p.m.
TV: MLB.tv (live), MLB Network (tape delayed at 3 a.m.)
Weather: Partly cloudy, 78 degrees, Wind 16 mph in from RF
STARTING LINEUPS6:20 p.m. -- We're underway here with Dillon Gee tossing a scoreless top of the first. Steve Lombardozzi flied out to right. Ian Desmond struck out looking at a borderline 3-2 pitch on the outside corner. Danny Espinosa drew a two-out walk, but Mark DeRosa flied out to center to end the inning. Stephen Strasburg now taking the mound for the bottom of the first.
3B Steve Lombardozzi
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
1B Mark DeRosa
C Wilson Ramos
CF Rick Ankiel
LF Brett Carroll
RF Roger Bernadina
P Stephen Strasburg
CF Andres Torres
2B Daniel Murphy
LF Jason Bay
1B Ike Davis
RF Lucas Duda
3B Justin Turner
C Josh Thole
SS Ruben Tejada
P Dillon Gee
6:30 p.m. -- Strasburg was kind of all over the place in his first inning. He didn't allow a run and put only one man on base, but he threw just seven of 16 pitches for strikes, issuing a one-out walk to Daniel Murphy (who then stole second). Stadium radar gun had Strasburg's fastball at 94-95. Scoreless after one.
6:35 p.m. -- The Nats go down 1-2-3 in the second, with Wilson Ramos grounding out to third and Rick Ankiel and Brett Carroll flying out to center.
6:44 p.m. -- Wow, nice job by Strasburg to avoid a flying shard of Josh Thole's bat and still field the ball and make the play at first base to end the second inning. Could've been a scary moment there. Instead, Strasburg retires the side on 17 pitches (12 strikes). He got Lucas Duda looking at a nasty 97 mph fastball on a full count. Total of 33 pitches, 19 strikes for Strasburg through two scoreless innings.
6:50 p.m. -- And now Strasburg (making the first plate appearance by any Nats pitcher this spring) smokes a hard chopper to second base, eating up Murphy and then beating the throw to first for a single. Not bad. Then again, Strasburg might want to work on his baserunning a bit. He nearly got his head taken off when Lombardozzi grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. Never even attempted to slide, just kind of ducked out of the way. Still scoreless as we go to the bottom of the third.
7:04 p.m. -- Give the Mets credit for making Strasburg work so far, especially Murphy, who just battled his way through an 11-pitch at-bat before grounding out to end the third. Strasburg has put only two men on base (one walk, one chopped double past a lunging Lombardozzi) but he's thrown 56 pitches (35 strikes). He's got a couple of strikeouts through three scoreless innings. Still 0-0 here.
7:13 p.m. -- Desmond beats out a ball to the left-side hole for a leadoff single in the fourth, then steals second. But he's stranded there as Espinosa and DeRosa each strike out and Ramos grounds out to third. The Nats have two infield singles and a walk off Gee so far. Still scoreless.
7:20 p.m. -- Just about everyone in the ballpark thought Strasburg had closed out the fourth inning with a strikeout of Duda on a nasty curveball. Duda himself started walking back to the dugout. But plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt thought otherwise, and because of it, Duda got a chance to drill Strasburg's next pitch over the left-field fence for a solo homer. So the Mets take a 1-0 lead. Strasburg's line through four innings: 1 run, 2 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts. 70 pitches, 44 strikes. No bullpen action yet, so it looks like he'll return for the fifth.
7:35 p.m. -- That'll do it for Strasburg, who churned out five solid innings. His final line: 5 ip, 2 h, 1 er, 1 bb, 3 k, 85 pitches, 54 strikes. Much better than his last outing, though he wasn't perfectly in sync. Definitely seemed to get better and stronger with each passing inning.
7:52 p.m. -- Stop the presses! Ian Desmond has drawn a walk! That's his first base on balls of the spring, coming in his 36th plate appearance. Hey, better late than never, right? The Nats, however, squandered a two-out, bases-loaded rally when reliever Frank Francisco got Ramos to ground out to end the sixth. Mets still lead 1-0.
8:07 p.m. -- Bit of a rough sixth inning for Ryan Mattheus, who got two quick outs but then issued a walk, allowed a stolen base and then an RBI single to Ike Davis. Add a subsequent double and Mattheus was fortunate to get out of the inning without suffering more damage. Mets lead 2-0 as we go to the seventh.
8:22 p.m. -- Just when it looked like Henry Rodriguez was about to endure one of his not-so-good innings, the right-hander regrouped to induce a double-play grounder and complete a scoreless seventh. By all accounts, H-Rod has had a great spring and has avoided the kind of disastrous losses of control that haunted him at times last season.
8:30 p.m. -- Hey, a Jon Rauch sighting! The big guy just extended the Mets' combined shutout with a scoreless eighth. We should be seeing plenty of him this season as one of New York's setup men. We go to the bottom of the eighth, with Craig Stammen on to pitch and the Nats down to their last three outs.
8:39 p.m. -- We're in the ninth, but Strasburg is about to speak to us. So you won't see a final score update for a while.
9:11 p.m. -- Sure enough, the game ended while we were in the clubhouse talking to Strasburg. Final score: Mets 2, Nats 0. Full report on Strasburg's evening coming shortly, but here's the money quote from Davey about the young pitcher's better approach and command tonight: "He was hitting it in the fairway today instead of 400 yards into the rough."