Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Gio Gonzalez starts tonight at Tradition Field.
Gonzalez will be on the mound for his Grapefruit League debut when the Nationals face the Mets here at Tradition Field. As was the case with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann before him, the lefty will be on a 45-pitch limit, so look for two or three innings from him.
Gonzalez won't have many regulars behind him in the field. Actually, he won't have any members of the projected Opening Day lineup, with only Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore (hitting cleanup for the third straight day) even assured of roster spots among tonight's starters.
Just like Saturday's game here, tonight's will be televised on MLB Network (again picking up the Mets' SNY broadcast). I'll have my own updates and analysis here, so please check back often...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. NEW YORK METS
Where: Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie
Gametime: 6:10 p.m. EST
TV: MLB Network (Mets' SNY broadcast)
Weather: Partly cloudy, 77 degrees, Wind 11 mph out to LF
CF Eury Perez
2B Steve Lombardozzi
RF Corey Brown
DH Tyler Moore
1B Chris Marrero
LF Carlos Rivero
3B Matt Skole
C Chris Snyder
SS Zach Walters
(LHP Gio Gonzalez)
CF Collin Cowgill
SS Ruben Tejada
3B David Wright
1B Ike Davis
RF Marlon Byrd
LF Jamie Hoffmann
DH Andrew Brown
C John Buck
2B Wilmer Flores
(RHP Collin McHugh)
6:10 p.m. -- And we're underway with a ball from Collin McHugh to Eury Perez. It was quite warm this afternoon during batting practice, up to 91 degrees, but it's cooled off nicely to 77 degrees at first pitch.
6:14 p.m. -- A nice display of speed from Perez, who tapped a slow roller to third and forced David Wright to attempt a tough, barehanded play. Unfortunately, he was immediately erased on a double play grounded into by Steve Lombardozzi. Corey Brown was grazed by a pitch, but Tyler Moore flied out to left to end the top of the first. Here's Gio...
6:29 p.m. -- A laborious bottom of the first for Gio, but he escaped unscathed. His fastball command was all over the place (six of his first eight pitches were balls) but his curveball was in midseason form. He buckled Wright's knees with one and struck out Ike Davis on another beauty. He also wasn't helped by his defense at all, with Zach Walters booting a routine grounder and Lombardozzi charged with an error when he couldn't corral Carlos Rivero's throw from left field. After all that, though, it's still scoreless after one.
6:38 p.m. -- Good lord does Matt Skole have some serious power or what? He just murdered a baseball to right-center. Only trouble was he didn't get under it enough, so he had to settle for a double. It's going to be fun watching this kid as long as he's in big-league camp.
6:46 p.m. -- Much better fastball command from Gonzalez in the second inning, resulting in a pair of strikeouts. Corey Brown also made a really nice diving catch along the right-field line to rob Andrew Brown of a bloop hit. Scoreless as we head to the third. Gio has thrown 34 pitches (20 strikes) but Ross Ohlendorf is warming in the pen, so that might be it for him. Scoreless through two.
7:07 p.m. -- The Nats took it to McHugh and reliever Brandon Lyon in the top of the third. Perez beat out another grounder -- the kid does have blazing speed, I'll give him that -- and then scored on Lombardozzi's blooper into the left-field corner. Brown roped a single, knocking McHugh out of the game, then Moore delivered an RBI single of his own off Lyon. Rivero completed the rally with an RBI double to left, so just like that the Nats lead 3-0 as Ohlendorf enters for the bottom of the third.
7:13 p.m. -- Nice debut inning for Ohlendorf, who needed only nine pitches to retire the side and struck out Collin Cowgill on an 85-mph offspeed pitch.
7:43 p.m. -- Just got back from the clubhouse, where Gio Gonzalez was in rare form. He had plenty to say about his actual performance, about the mechanical adjustment he made after the first inning to rein in his fastball, about how much confidence he has in his curveball even in his first outing of the spring, about how pleased he was to get a positive reaction from the crowd in the wake of the Biogenesis story. But really the most entertaining part of the interview was when Gio explained why his forehead looked like it had been burned. His explanation: His dog did it. No, really. He was horsing around with his French bulldog, Hollywood, and got kind of roughed up in the process. Only Gio. ... Anyways, back to the game. Ike Davis homered off Ohlendorf in the bottom of the fourth, so it's now 4-1 Nats in the fifth.
7:58 p.m. -- Nice job by Ohlendorf. He finished up three innings of strong relief, the only hit he allowed that Davis homer. He also made a really nice play on a bouncer to his right, firing a perfect, off-balance throw to first base to nail the batter. Still 4-1 Nats through five.
8:13 p.m. -- First time I've ever seen Nathan Karns pitch in person, and I have to say I was impressed. He's got a very smooth delivery that makes his 94 mph fastball look even faster. He battled David Wright impressively in the bottom of the sixth, with Wright fouling off three straight 3-2 pitches before finally singling to right. Good stuff from the Nats minor league pitcher of the year. Still 4-1 as we go to the seventh.
8:24 p.m. -- Whoa, Anthony Rendon nearly hits his second homer in as many days, only to be robbed in center field by Matt den Dekker. Incredible catch by den Dekker, who scaled the wall to bring Rendon's blast back. The Nats still managed to score when Destin Hood drilled an RBI double to right-center, putting the visitors up 5-1 at the seventh-inning stretch.
8:33 p.m. -- More good stuff from Karns in the bottom of the seventh. He recorded a pair of strikeouts, getting top prospect Travis d'Arnaud. Still 5-1 heading to the eighth.
8:50 p.m. -- Not a particularly strong eighth inning from lefty Pat McCoy. He just turned that 5-1 lead into a 5-4 nailbiter. It'll be Ryan Mattheus for the save in the ninth.
8:59 p.m. -- Well, the Nats got a run back in the top of the ninth, so it's 6-4 as Mattheus enters. Sadly, no Katy Perry as he trots in from the bullpen. Though they are playing a great old clip from "Cheers" on the scoreboard, the one where Woody inadvertently starts the entire bar on "We Will Rock You."
9:09 p.m. -- That'll do it. Mattheus closes out a 6-4 victory, the Nats' first of the spring.