Friday, April 9, 2010

Game 4: Nats at Mets

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Citi Field, the Mets' overly quirky new home.
NEW YORK -- Good afternoon from Citi Field, now in its second year of operation. The new home of the New York Mets is a MAJOR upgrade from Shea Stadium (then again, RFK Stadium would have been an upgrade from Shea Stadium) but I've never been all that impressed with this place.

For one thing, it's incredibly confusing to navigate. One of the best things Nationals Park has going for it is that fans can walk all the way around the main concourse and never lose sight of the field. Not so here, where there are random turns and angles blocking your path every which way you go. (And don't get me started on how difficult it is to find the press box. I leave a trail of breadcrumbs every time I walk out the door.)

The playing field, too, has all kinds of quirks, and not necessarily in a good way. There's a big overhang above the right-field fence that led to a disputed homer last season when the Nats were in town. Members of the visiting pitching staff can't see the field from their bullpen because of the poor angle it faces (they have to watch on TV screens). It's almost like the Mets just wanted to create quirkiness for the sake of quirkiness. It doesn't look natural at all. Contrived quirkiness is how I'd describe it.

Anyways, the Nats send Garrett Mock to the mound tonight against Mike Pelfrey. Every time Mock (who narrowly won the final spot in the rotation) takes the mound, the pressure's going to be on him to perform. Not that he could lose his job after one start, but the leash will be short, with Scott Olsen, J.D. Martin and others waiting in the wings at Syracuse.

Check back for updates and analysis throughout the game, and check the homepage for other news and notes...

Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 58 degrees, Wind 14 mph LF to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Willie Harris
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
2B Adam Kennedy
C Ivan Rodriguez
SS Ian Desmond
P Garrett Mock
CF Angel Pagan
2B Alex Cora
3B David Wright
LF Jason Bay
1B Mike Jacobs
RF Jeff Francoeur
C Rod Barajas
SS Ruben Tejada
P Mike Pelfrey

5:33 p.m. -- You'll notice the Nats are back using their Opening Day lineup tonight, the first repeat lineup of the young season. You probably won't see a lot of that this year, because of the revolving-door nature of a few positions (right field, shortstop, second base). And expect changes the rest of the weekend. Jim Riggleman said Cristian Guzman will start at second base tomorrow and could start in right field Sunday. That may depend on Mike Morse's status; he's still not totally recovered from a strained left calf, though he's available tonight if needed.

5:45 p.m. -- One other domino effect of Morse's minor injury: Adam Dunn had to stay at first base for the ninth inning of yesterday's 6-5 win. Normally, Riggleman would use Morse (or someone else) as a late defensive replacement with a slim lead, but he couldn't afford to use up another player off his diminished bench yesterday.

6:14 p.m. -- I forgot to mention yesterday the plastic, silver Elvis pompadour wig that is now a part of postgame victory celebrations in the Nats' clubhouse. The quick story: Nyjer Morgan bought this thing for a Halloween costume, and when Adam Dunn saw it, he decided whoever is named "Player of the Game" on the Nationals Park scoreboard following a home win should have to wear it while conducting his interviews. So that explains Willie Harris' bizarre look yesterday. You can find a video segment of Harris wearing the wig on's Nats homepage.

7:03 p.m. -- Scott Olsen made his Syracuse Chiefs debut today and didn't exactly dominate the Lehigh Valley IronPigs lineup. Olsen allowed four runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings, getting a no-decision. The lefty struck out four and walked one. Chris Duncan's sac fly in the 10th scored Pete Orr to give Syracuse a 5-4 victory.

7:12 p.m. -- We're underway, and there's barely anyone inside Citi Field. Stands aren't even one-quarter full, I'd say. Friday rush hour must be brutal. Or maybe Mets fans have already given up on their team after three games.

7:14 p.m. -- Boy, Mike Pelfrey just made that look easy. Retired the side on seven pitches. Normally, you'd want to see the Nats take a few more pitches, but Pelfrey threw six strikes, so it's not like they weren't intending to work the count.

7:31 p.m. -- Garrett "I'm going to attack hitters" Mock didn't exactly do that in the bottom of the first. Went to a full count on each of the first three batters he faced and walked David Wright after starting him out 0-2. He got out of it all without allowing a run, but it took 29 pitches (14 strikes) to do it. Just like that, it's probably safe to say already Mock won't pitch more than five innings tonight. Pelfrey, meanwhile, positioned himself to go the distance.

7:44 p.m. -- When Ian Desmond hits the ball, he hits it hard. With a two-run triple down the left-field line, the rookie now has 26 hits in the big leagues. Sixteen of those have gone for extra-bases. So Desmond's CAREER slugging percentage is now .604. Barry Bonds' career slugging percentage: .607. Nats lead 2-0 heading to the bottom of the second.

7:50 p.m. -- What's the last thing you want to do when handed a two-run lead? Serve up a leadoff home run. Mock leaves a change-up right over the plate for Jeff Francoeur, who blasts it to left field to put the Mets on the board. Washington now leads 2-1 after two.

7:55 p.m. -- Francoeur had been 0-for-7 with three strikeouts in his career against Mock before that home run. Of course, if you're one of my subscribers who received the preview for this series, you already knew that!

8:12 p.m. -- You want to know just how important this game is? As astute reader Bill Osborne points out, if the Nats win tonight, it will mark the first time they've been out of last place in the NL East since April 6, 2008 (when they were 3-4 and one-half game ahead of the Phillies).

8:37 p.m. -- What's the last thing you want to do after getting ahead of an opposing batter? Throw a two-strike fastball down the heart of the zone. Garrett Mock, however, puts a fastball right on a platter for Rod Barajas to lead off the bottom of the fourth. The ensuing home run has tied the game 2-2. The weather has really turned nasty here. There's a stiff wind blowing from left to right fields, and the temperature is probably down into the 40s. There are hot dog wrappers all over the field. So much for that beautiful and warm start to the season.

8:48 p.m. -- Good night, Garrett. In his season debut, Mock lasts all of 3 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits, walking five and striking out three. 84 pitches, 44 strikes. Here's the question: Was anyone surprised by this? (Fortunately, Miguel Batista got out of the jam with a double-play ball. So it's still 2-2 after four.)

9:19 p.m. -- Of all the guys in New York's lineup, the one you're probably least worried about is Rod Barajas. So naturally, Barajas has two homers tonight. He took Mock deep on a 1-2 pitch to lead off the fourth, and he just took Batista deep on a 1-2 pitch to lead off the sixth. The Mets now lead 3-2, though Jerry Manuel is pinch-hitting for Pelfrey, so New York's bullpen will take over from here.

9:47 p.m. -- By this time tomorrow, the Nationals will have decided which reliever gets removed from the roster to make room for Livan Hernandez. The choice pretty much comes down to Jesse English, Jason Bergmann or Tyler Walker. None of those guys helped his chances tonight. Bergmann allowed a double off the wall to David Wright that would have been a homer if not for the stiff wind. English came in to face Fernando Tatis and allowed an RBI single on his first pitch. And then Walker came in to face Jeff Francoeur and allowed a two-run homer on his first pitch. That, folks, is called poor relief. Mets now lead 6-2 after seven.

10:00 p.m. -- Meanwhile, the Nats' lineup has amassed all of four hits tonight, three of them from their No. 7 and 8 hitters (Rodriguez and Desmond). Not thinking they have a chance to significantly add to that total in the ninth inning against Francisco Rodriguez.

10:18 p.m. -- No need for K-Rod, because the Mets tacked on two more runs in the eighth to open up an 8-2 lead which easily held up. That's your final score. The Nats fall to 1-3 and miss an opportunity to escape the NL East basement for the first time in two years. Back tomorrow at 1:10 p.m., with John Lannan against Oliver Perez.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark.
Is Shea still standing?

Will said...

Anon - Shea was transformed into a parking lot just prior to Citi's opening. I'm a Rutgers grad student and had a mini-package to Citi Field last year (mostly for the 3 games vs. the Nats as well as the Subway Series) and agree with Mark on Citi's design. It's charming from the outside, but once you're in, it's a bit of a maze. I found myself wanting to show features of the park off to friends I'd bring along to each game and often struggling to find them until I'd been to my 12th or 13th game. Very steep learning curve. Will be back for Saturday afternoon's game. Hope I can find the Shake Shack. (I know, I know, it's the one place in there you can't miss.)

Wally said...

One more thought from last night's game - while the Phillies clearly had some well hit balls off him, Stammen had a 59% groundball rate. That is a very good number. Strikeouts didn't match the spring training numbers, but his FB velocity was consistently 90-92 on the TV gun so I think that there is reason to hope that he has made an incremental step forward there. I am optimistic that he is going to perform well this year.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Went to a game last year at Citi Field. The sight lines were horrible...if someone stood up anywhere in front of you the entire field disappeared. Having grown up in NY I missed the old decrepit Shea.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know how long it's been since Adam Dunn hit a long fly? I know he didn't hit one during the last week or so of 2009 because he needed just two for 40 and I thought he had plenty of time to do it but it wasn't to be. And then this sping, nada. Anyone as paranoid as I am about the other face-of-franchise? I WANT MY HOMERS!

Anonymous said...

dear 5:01, no. 162/40 = 4. That is three games between homers, on average. But average includes alot of variability. Big week with 5 or 6 homers, slump of 20 days without.

Nats Not Mets said...

Risking the jinx wrath, and invoking the Jimmy Rollins rule; Zman will achieve double digits on his hitting streak this evening

Sunderland said...

Adam Dunn's last home run, September 22, at home.
Previous to that, Sept 11, in Florida.

So, he has not hit a home run in 14 regular season games.
And he has hit only 1 home run in his past 22 games.

Citi Field would be as good a place as ever to turn things around.

TBC said...

Dunn's last home run was on Sept 22 in a 14-2 loss to the Dodgers at Nationals Park.* (Hey, I was at that game.) He went the last 11 games without going deep, and now all of spring training and three games into this season. I'd say he's due.

* Thanks to for the info.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Mark, thanks for the link to the video. I had read about it elsewhere, but hadn't gotten a good look. Much more ridiculous than I pictured in my head!

Anonymous said...

Can anyone here rationalize Desmond's being at the bottom of the order?

Sec314 said...

Mock is pitching like himself. He must have something on Rizzo. Meanwhile Martin pitched well last night for the Chiefs

Souldrummer said...

Can anyone here rationalize why the Mets pitched to Desmond? That would be some bad managing and Don Sutton would have got bananas if a Nats pitcher had did that. Given what Carlton Ruiz did to us that's an auspicious sign.

Nats Rule! said...

Mark: when can we expect to see you in the silver Elvis wig :-)

Anonymous said...

I've worried about Dunn for a little while now. It started during Spring Training where he didn't hit one out either. Last year he was on point by the World Baseball Classic (maybe that's why he ran out of gas at season's end), but this year he just doesn't seem to have it down yet. I hope he snaps out of it soon. He's really worrying me.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Nats Rule: I'll don the wig as soon as I get a game-winning hit. (Don't hold your breath.)

Souldrummer said...

Mark: Can you get the wig from the owner of the hat if you offer game winning intel that leads to a game winning hit?

Anonymous said...

Hey Mark,

Maybe this discussion on Dunn is worth a future column.

My impression is if the team is up 5 runs or down down 5 runs Dunn might hit a homer. But I have few memories of him hitting one to tie or go ahead in a game.

I also have the impression (not being a Saber guy) that a high percentage of his K's are looking, and a high percentage of these looking-K's happen with men on base.

Am I right on any of this?


Mark Zuckerman said...

Anonynats: Your impression is accurate, particularly on your latter point. Dunn often is overly selective at the plate, taking a close pitch for strike three when there are runners on base begging to be driven in. There are times when you should look to draw a walk. And then there are times you should look to drive in some runs.

ArlingtonBigFish said...

Watching Garrett Mock pitch (& I use that term loosely) has got to be one of the most frustrating things I have ever experienced in baseball. If he can't throw strikes, why's he in the major leagues? And if he can, but isn't, he must have a baseball IQ of about 20. He's also driving Dibble crazy. (My first post, BTW). Keep up the good work, guys.

Souldrummer said...

Based on performance, Bergmann's the guy who ought to get sent down. But he's out of options. It would be nice if Jesse English could get a LOOGY situation where the lefty stays in there to face him instead of him getting Tatis.

I'd kind of like to see Bergmann sent down, nice guy rep notwithstanding and see English stay, but I think that it will be the other way around.

Which way do you think this will go, Mark?

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Mock is just a big dumb Texan who would be pumping gas out on Route 66 if he didn't touch 93 on the radar gun now and then. Any relationship between what he does and major league pitching is purely coincidental. To paraphrase that great poet Hollywood Henderson: "He couldnt' spell cat if you spotted him and c and the t.

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