Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Tradition Field hosts the Nationals in their Grapefruit League opener.
The Nationals open Grapefruit League play today, facing the Mets here at Tradition Field. Stephen Strasburg is on the mound (for probably two or three innings). Denard Span is making his Nationals debut, leading off and playing center field. Bryce Harper is hitting third, perhaps the first of many times we'll see that this season.
Veteran right-hander Shaun Marcum gets the start for New York, which then will send top prospect Zack Wheeler to the mound. Manager Terry Collins has several regulars in his lineup, including David Wright and Lucas Duda, so Strasburg will face something resembling a real test today.
A reminder that this game is being televised on MLB Network (it's actually the Mets' SNY broadcast getting picked up), so you can watch live. More importantly, you can get all your updates and analysis right here throughout the game, so please check back often...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. NEW YORK METS
Where: Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie
Gametime: 12:10 p.m. EST
TV: MLB Network (Mets' SNY broadcast)
Weather: Partly cloudy, 81 degrees, Wind 12 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
2B Steve Lombardozzi
LF Bryce Harper
RF Tyler Moore
3B Chad Tracy
SS Ian Desmond
1B Chris Marrero
C Chris Snyder
DH Micah Owings
(RHP Stephen Strasburg)
CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis
SS Ruben Tejada
3B David Wright
1B Ike Davis
RF Marlon Byrd
LF Lucas Duda
C John Buck
2B Justin Turner
DH Jordany Valdespin
(RHP Shaun Marcum)
12:09 p.m. -- Denard Span steps to the plate, Shaun Marcum delivers a fastball outside for ball one and the 2013 baseball season is underway.
12:14 p.m. -- Span's first at-bat as a National was fairly uneventful. He took a couple of pitches, then tapped a grounder to the right side of the infield. Steve Lombardozzi also grounded out weakly, but then Bryce Harper stepped in to a nice ovation from the crowd and promptly whacked the very first pitch he saw down the right field line, almost taking out the entire Nats bullpen in the process. After that loud foul ball, Harper came back and poked a solid single to right for his first hit of the spring. Tyler Moore skied a flyball to right to end the top of the first, so here comes Stephen Strasburg for the bottom of the inning.
12:32 p.m. -- Not exactly the first inning Strasburg was looking for. He needed a whopping 31 pitches (28 of them fastballs) to face six batters, three of whom recorded hits, two of whom scored via Ruben Tejada's homer to left-center off a 3-2 fastball. Shaky command for the right-hander in that frame, leading to three full counts and some long at-bats. But it's one inning in February, and based on the ridiculously high percentage of fastballs he threw, obviously Strasburg was working on stuff there and not necessarily pitching for results. Nats trail 2-0 after one.
12:41 p.m. -- Man, the ball is flying here today. Ian Desmond (to the surprise of nobody) whacked the very first pitch he saw to left field for a single. Chris Marrero drove him home with a double to deep left. Then Chris Snyder poked a pitch from Marcum over the fence for a 2-run homer, putting the Nats up 3-2 in the top of the second. Could be a long day.
12:51 p.m. -- Much better stuff from Strasburg in the bottom of the second. He retired the side on 11 pitches, working on his curveball a bit more. His final line: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 42 pitches, 24 strikes. His pitch selection: 36 fastballs, 5 curveballs, 1 changeup. Should be obvious what he was working on today. Nats still lead 3-2 after two as Zack Wheeler enters for the Mets.
12:59 p.m. -- Looks like the Mets may have something with this Wheeler kid. He walked Lombardozzi to lead off the third but bounced back to get Harper to ground out to short, then struck out Moore and Tracy with some mid-90s fastballs. Good stuff from the right-hander. Craig Stammen enters for the bottom of the third, the Nats still up 3-2.
1:10 p.m. -- Stammen navigates his way through a scoreless bottom of the third, though not without a moment of trepidation. Kirk Nieuwenhuis crushed a line drive to left, right at Harper, who then turned that routine play into a spectacular, circus catch in which the ball ricocheted off his glove, off his thigh and then back into his glove. Quite a highlight there for the 20-year-old. Nats still up 3-2 heading to the fourth.
1:18 p.m. -- Chris Snyder may have little hope of making the Opening Day roster, but he's certainly making an early name for himself. After homering in the second, he roped a single in the fourth to improve to 2-for-2 on the day. He's also become a popular presence behind the plate, a very vocal and upbeat catcher. Bottom of the fourth upcoming, the Nats still up 3-2.
1:33 p.m. -- Thirty-nine pitches for Stammen in his first relief appearance of the spring? No problem. In fact, knowing the way Davey used him last year, I wouldn't be shocked to see him back out there tomorrow. OK, maybe not. Stammen did give up a run in the bottom of the fourth on three base hits, the last by noted Nationals-killer Jordany Valdespin. So it's 3-3 as we move to the fifth inning here.
2:30 p.m. -- Just got back from the clubhouse, where Strasburg, Snyder, Harper, Span and Desmond all spoke after coming out of the game. Full details postgame, but one gem from Strasburg was that he called the first inning "a bit of a debacle." He pointed out, though, that he always struggles to find a comfort zone the first time he takes the mound in a season and recalled giving up a homer in his first inning of spring training last season. The man who hit that homer? Chris Snyder, who caught Strasburg today. As for this game, the Mets scored a pair off Bill Bray in the bottom of the sixth. So they now lead 5-3 as we reach the seventh-inning stretch.
2:57 p.m. -- A chance for the Nats in the top of the eighth with runners on the corners, one out and somebody named Darin Gorski on the mound. But Anthony Rendon (getting his first at-bat of the spring) popped out to shallow right field and Jhonatan Solano grounded out to short to kill the potential rally. So it's still 5-3 Mets, with the Nats down to their final three outs.
3:15 p.m. -- That's yer ballgame. Nats lose the spring opener 5-3. Wonder if Davey will turn over the clubhouse spread in anger. Probably not.