3:37, END 9: The Nats lost, 5-3. Chris Snyder had the best game for the Nats, going 2 for 2 with a homer. Bill Bray takes the loss.
3:05, END 8: Cole Kimball tossed a scoreless eighth, hitting 91 miles per hour with his fastball.
2:40, BOT 7: Just returned from the clubhouse, where we spoke with Strasburg, Span, Harpepr and Desmond. Strasburg allowed that his first inning was “a bit of debacle,” but he was pleased with the adjustment he made in the second inning. He said he had a lot of adrenaline for his start, which is typical for him making the first start of any season — college, spring, regular season, whatever.
A major theme for him was how he handled the rough start. In the past, he said, a bad inning and a home run allowed would have enraged him. It would have made him want to go throw extra pitches in the bullpen, to make his next side session a marathon. Today was different. Strasburg has realized he has eight months of pitching ahead, and it would only be detrimental to allow a few missed pitches lead to fatiguing workouts in February. We’ll have much more later.
Meantime, it’s 5-3, Mets. Bill Bray allowed two runs, one earned and one unearned, in the sixth inning.
1:32, BOT 4: The Mets have tied it up as Stammen labored through the fourth. Jordany Valdespin poked a single up the middle, scoring John Buck. Stammen needed 39 pitches for his two innings of work. It’s 3-3. No. 75 on to pitch for the Mets.
1:21, MID 4: Wheeler held the Nats scoreless again. The Nationals’ regulars are starting to come out. Eury Perez replaced Denard Span in center, and Zach Walters is in for Ian Desmond at short. Nats still up, 3-2.
1:11, END 3: Craig Stammen pitched a scoreless inning, highlighted by Harper’s unconventional catch in left field. Nieuwenhuis ripped a liner to Harper’s right. After tracked it down, the ball deflected off his glove, then off his upper leg, and popped into the air, where he snagged it. Chad Tracy made the first error of spring, unable to handle a tricky David Wright chopper.
1:00, MID 3: Really impressive work from Zack Wheeler, the Mets’ top pitching prospect. After Steve Lombardozzi drew a leadoff walk and Harper grounded out sharply to short, Wheeler blew away Tyler Moore and Chad Tracy with a lively fastball. He hit 95 and 96 all inning.
12:50, END 2: Much better for Strasburg in the second inning. He retired John Buck (pop to left), Justin Turner (grounder to second) and Jordany Valdespin (pop to third) in 11 pitches. He went to work on his curveball, throwing three of them in just those 11 pitches. He threw one bad one that didn’t break much and stayed above the zone, then two sharp breakers. Strasburg threw one fastball clocked at 97 by the scoreboard radar, his fastest pitch of the day. At 42 pitches overall, Strasburg is finished. Craig Stammen will relieve.
12:40, TOP 2: The wind is a factor. Chris Marrero smoked a double to the left-center gap to score Desmond. Marrero impressed Nats officials and coaches all spring with his power. Chris Snyder skied a fly ball to left, and the wind carried it out. Nats take a 3-2 lead.
12:36, TOP 2: Ian Desmond swung at the first pitch of the spring. Poetry. He lined a single to left. He is still on pace to take zero pitches in 2013.
12:32, END 1: Pretty ugly start to the spring for Strasburg. Marlon Byrd roped a two-out double to right-center, which also came after the count had run full. Strasburg ended the inning with a strikeout of Lucas Duda, who watched a 2-2 sinker for strike three. Strasburg struggled a bit with location and threw 31 pitches, 18 of them strikes, in the inning. He’s on a 45-pitch limit.
12:25, BOT 1: The Mets are giving Strasburg a heap of trouble. Kirk Niewenhuis led off with a seven-pitch at-bat and ended it with a single off a 97-mph fastball. Ruben Tejada followed by running the count full and then lashing a two-run homer over the left center field fence. Strasburg came back to get Wright and Davis with groundouts. He’s been hitting 94-97 with his fastball, and has mixed in one curve and one changeup to the first four batters. 2-0, Mets.
12:15, MID 1: Bryce Harper’s still got pretty decent bat speed. Mercy. On the first pitch he saw, he smoked a line drive foul down the right field line that sent the pitchers in the bullpen scattering. He ended the at-bat by rolling a single through the right side. Steve Lombardozzi had grounded out to second, and Tyler Moore popped up to end the inning. 0-0. Here comes Strasburg.
12:09, TOP 1: We are underway. Denard Span took a ball outside from Shaun Marcum on the first pitch. He nubbed the 2-2 pitch to the right and couldn’t beat Ike Davis’s flip to Marcum covering. Baseball.
PREGAME: You can watch the Nationals’ opener on MLB Network, but you can also follow along and discuss the game here. We’ll have updates, starting with the Nationals’ first inning against Mets starter Shaun Marcum and Stephen Strasburg’s first semi-competitive pitches of the spring.
Bryce Harper will probably only play a few innings today, but he already put on a show during batting practice. The wind is whipping out at Tradition Field, which only served to augment Harper’s hellacious batting practice. He ripped one laser off the base of the right field wall despite breaking his bat. He crushed another pitch over a 15-foot sign standing about 420 feet from home plate.
He’ll hit third today, almost certainly the same spot he will occupy on opening day. It’s kind of amazing to think he was trying to make the team one year ago today, and that he ended up breaking camp with Class AAA Syracuse.
A couple last-minute notes: Davey Johnson said the second opinion on Christian Garcia’s wrist confirmed the original diagnosis. Garcia has a strain and will miss a few days. “He’s just going to have to rest that thing,” Johnson said. Because of the long spring training this year, Johnson said, Garcia’s transition from reliving to starting will not be affected.
Johnson also said the Nationals’ lineup remains a work in progress, in his mind. While it seems pretty set, “there’s still some question how they’ll come out of spring hitting,” Johnson said.