First Franchise Win!
Win Win Win. It is always great to win. This is just
the perfect start to the Nationals’ season, Washington Nationals 5 – New York Mets 3.
The game took
place in the old Florida Marlins stadium called Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida. The game started with quite a few of the teal seats unoccupied. A
camera shot outside the stadium showed a long stream of cars filling into the stadium that lasted until the third inning. Finally 7,558 fans made it through the turnstiles to watch the home team Washington
Nationals. Almost a full house in a stadium that holds just over 8,100, for a
team that drew only an average of 9,300 fans during the regular season it must have seemed like a playoff game. There is a nice area at the park with table to enjoy a few drinks while the game is going on.
had a good start, not a perfect game, but a good solid game. The Nationals allowed
only 5 hits to the New York Mets while getting 9 hits themselves. There were
some sloppy plays on both ends of the field but there was also some good plays to keep the optimism for the season.
Armas was the starting pitcher for the Nationals. He went two innings and did
not allow any runs with no hits, one walk and two strikeouts. It was a nice outing
for a pitcher coming off arm problems in the previous season. His fastball was
in the upper 80s but he was a little wild at first. Had a great performance against
Beltran with a 3 pitch strikeout to end the first inning. His breaking ball was
in the mid 70’s giving him a nice difference from his fastball. He started
the second inning with another 3-0 count displaying a bit of wildness. He had
good control over his breaking ball but a little high with his fastball. Armas
pitched two strong innings and set the tone for the game.
The Nats did
not score in the first two innings. Guzman had the Nationals first hit of the
season with a single. Guzman a switch-hitter was batting from the right side.
Vidro was the next batter and hit into a double play. Here is the starting line-up
for the Nats –
I do not particularly
like the line-up. First of all Chavez has not impressed me enough to be a lead-off
batter. He does appear quick when you see him in the batter’s box. However, he tends to have a long swing which lengthens his time in getting out of
the batter’s box. Additionally, he is a left hand batter that does not
appear to be trying to go to the opposite field. I would like to see him dropped
down to the number 7 slot in the order.
Guzman is a
good switch hitting veteran player who would be a nice lead off man for this Nationals team.
The Nationals have no true lead off hitter. They are going to have to
make the best of their situation. You know Guzman is going to get onto base and
be one of the table setters for the RBI hitters in the line-up.
While we are
on the topic of RBI hitters, I do not view Vidro as one of the main RBI batters on this club.
I was surprised to see him in the number 3 slot. He is certainly better
suited for a number two position. With Guzman leading off, Vidro would be the
natural number two hitter. Guillen could move up to the third slot to insure
he gets to hit in the first inning. Who is the clean-up hitter for this team? Which leads to an interesting question – why was Castilla brought to the Nationals? I was shocked to see him in the number six slot.
He is getting paid to be the clean-up guy. Although I am very impressed
with Wilkerson, I would like to see him follow Castilla in the line-up. So the
perfect line-up for me would be the following –
I would not
mind if Chavez was removed from the starting line-up. Let’s see how the
preseason goes since the Manager sees something in Chavez; I do not understand the excitement.
pitched the 3rd inning getting the first two outs on ground balls. He
caught the Mets’ second baseman Matsui looking for a fastball and hitting a breaking ball on sort of a check swing to
left for the final out. The single that Hinckley
allowed was a groundball to the first base side of second base. This will be
the first of two groundball singles that got through the infield in which I thought that Vidro was playing too close to first
base. Nick Johnson is a good fielding first baseman and with no runners on against
a right hand hitter Vidro should be closer to the second base bag.
Hinckley led off the bottom of the third with a strikeout at the plate.
He pitched the 4th inning with not as much success as the third. He
started the inning pitching from behind before the leadoff batter Beltran singled up the center. He walked the second batter to put himself in a tough position.
The next batter singled to right to score Beltran. Mets 1 – Nats 0. Hinckley did not help himself on a come backer to the mound which he fired into the ground near second
base to allow the second run of the inning to score. After walking the bases
full and one out, Hinckley did a good job of getting out of the inning. Nothing was hit hard in the inning. Hinckley
held his composure to keep the score at 2-0.
In the bottom
of the 4th we got to see the first homerun for the Nationals by Guillen.
Guillen took a low outside pitch and muscled it over the right field fence. The
Nationals came right back and tied this game up. This was the best sign for the
start of the new season.
Jon Rauch pitched
the fifth inning. Rauch is a giant on the mound at 6’11”. He did allow an unearned run after center fielder Chavez missed played a fly ball. The ball was a deep fly to center by Matsui to the warning track.
Chavez hesitated just prior to stepping onto the warning track and was looking for the wall just before the ball hit
off his glove. The Mets moved Matsui to third with two outs. The run was scored when Hammonds misplayed
another fly ball. Hammonds
was confused on just how hard the ball was hit and stood frozen in place before a last minute jump only to watch the ball
go over his glove.
Again in the
bottom of the fifth our Nationals came right back to tie the game up at three. Back-up
to the back-up catcher Osik put one out of the park to left. Osik replaced starting
catcher Schneider with normal back-up Bennett out due to injury.
TJ Tucker made
quick work of the Mets in the sixth with a good strong controlled inning. Tucker
has been on the Expos for the last four years and has been a middle reliever and occasional starter over the past few years. He appeared in 54 games with a good 3.72 ERA in 2004.
Tucker ended up getting the win when the Nats took the lead for the first time in the game in the bottom of the sixth.
with one out to get things started. Sledge came up and hit a nice ball through
the shortstop hole on a hit and run. With runners on first and third Hammonds hit a grounder to third which was misplayed by the Mets. Carroll came on to score; it looked like the Mets were going to give the run up for
the out on that play anyways. Nats lead for the first time in their history 4-3.
The Nats pitching
tightened the noose for the final three innings striking out 5 and allowing only one hit in the 8th. Majewski pitched the seventh striking out two. Ayala pitched
the 8th and Cordero was lights out in the ninth with three solid strikeouts to close the game for the first save
in Nats history.
to the Nats offense in the 8th inning, Carroll started it off with a one out infield single. Carroll could be a good lead off hitter for the Nationals. If
he could play left field that would be awesome, Wilkerson could move to center. Carroll
is very active on base paths. Sledge was unable to move Carroll over into scoring
position when he struck out. Now with two outs Hammonds put a ball into the hole left by the second baseman. Carroll took off for second
on the hit and run play. With runners on 1st and 3rd and
two outs Harris stroked a nice hit to center to put the insurance run on the board.
Some of the
intangibles for the season will be the intensity of this team. What I really
liked was when Manager Frank Robinson came out onto the field to argue a very questionable infield fly rule call in the sixth
inning. It shows these young player and veterans that everything counts.
Overall a good
solid win for the Nationals and looking forward to the next pre-season game against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.