The Nationals’ clubhouse came away impressed with Tom Milone after the Nationals beat the Mets, 8-7, in his major league debut, both his stuff and his poise. He hit a rough patch when he reached the fourth inning and began facing the Mets’ lineup for a second time. Drew Storen said that’s part of Milone learning how hitters adjust at the major league level.
Milone retired the first seven batters he faced, and aside from the four runs he allowed scoring in a span of six batters, he showcased the style that got him to the majors. He had hitters lunging at changeups and he pitched inside without fear. “He hit every spot all night,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “Even the home run, I watch the replay. It went right to the glove.”
Milone showed, as expected, an excellent pickoff move. He almost nabbed Angel Pagan off first base in the fourth inning. Before Davey Johnson took him out in the fifth inning, he let him to stay in the game to try to pickoff Jose Reyes first.
Milone’s demeanor and attitude also made an impression.
“I think the majority of pitchers who throw 90 miles per hour would have tried to come out and throw 95,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “He went out there with his stuff and made it work. He put us in a situation to win that game, and I think he’s got a lot more wins coming. He’s not trying to do too much. He knows what he is.”
Said Ryan Zimmerman: “He doesn’t really get too excited. He’s a pretty mellow guy. He doesn’t really get caught up in the moment at all. I think that’s what makes him so good.”
Major league batters may find figuring out Milone an easy challenge, but there are precedents for pitchers like Milone thriving. Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buerhle is another lefty who doesn’t throw 90. In his minor league career, he had a 1.072 WHIP, a 4.82 strikeout-to-walk rate and a 3.11 ERA. Milone’s minor league numbers: 1.140 WHIP, 5.54 strikeout-to-walk rate, 3.05 ERA.
“Radar guns, for me, are for guys who don’t know a pitcher from a thrower,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “I was really impressed. He’s a pitcher.”
>>> The Nationals received their two best offensive performances from Ian Desmond and Jesus Flores. Catching for the fifth time in six games, Flores went 3 for 4 with a double and a ninth-inning single that sparked the game-winning rally.
“Flo had a great game,” Zimmerman said. “He’s really starting to come back around and do what he did back a couple years before he was hurt.”
Desmond led off the game with a home run and later added a bloop single and a sacrifice bunt that moved the ninth inning along. He has been turning his season around since the all-star break, batting .287/.344/.427 in the second half.
>>> Before the game, Johnson said Ivan Rodriguez would not play even though he had been activated and added to the 25-man roster. But he did play, entering the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. What convinced Johnson to let Rodriguez play?
“He told me about four times,” Johnson said.
Rodriguez killed a rally by grounding into a 5-6-3 double play with runners on the corners and one out. Johnson thought Rodriguez would be able to take one Danny Herrera’s screwball to right field for a single.
“I thought that screwball the guy was throwing, Pudge could hit him the other way,” Johnson said. “He was trying to make a screwball away, and he hung it inside. Pudge even saw where the catcher was. He said, ‘Boy, if that screwball would have been away from me, I’d have hammered it.’ Because he saw the catcher setting up way outside. The guy made a bad pitch. It actually turned out to be a good pitch.”