The 2013 Grapefruit League season started this afternoon with the defending NL East champs on the road in Port St. Lucie, Florida's rechristened Tradition Field with new Washington Nationals' center fielder Denard Span taking a fastball outside from the New York Mets' right-hander Shaun Marcum. The 28-year-old Nats' center fielder grounded to first for the first out of the year. One out later, Bryce Harper's first swing of the season resulted in a scorched line drive that drew "Ooos" from the crowd before it landed foul down the line in right. The 20-year-old Nationals' left fielder singled through the right side for the Nationals' first hit of the Spring, but he was stranded at first when Tyler Moore flew to right to end the first.
Nats' starter Stephen Strasburg gave up a leadoff single to center by Mets' center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but was throwing heat according to those in attendance:
Stephen Strasburg's first batter: 95, 96, 96, 96, 97, 97, 97. Last one a single for Kirk Nieuwenhuis.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 23, 2013
Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters before the game that his 24-year-old ace would be on a 45-pitch limit in his first start of the Spring, and the Nats' skipper said he'd prefer a two-inning outing though a pitch-efficient Stras might stretch it to 3.0. The right-hander threw a total of 31 pitches before the first was over. After Nieuwenhuis' hit, power-hitting Mets' shortstop Ruben Tejada took a fastball to left and over the wall for a two-run blast that gave NY a 2-0 lead. A couple groundouts and a two-out single to right-center by Marlon Byrd stretched Strasburg to 31 pitches, but he got a called strike three with the 31st pitch to get Lucas Duda looking and end the bottom of the inning.
A mustachioed Ian Desmond singled with one down in the Nats' second and scored on a double to left by '06 Nats' 1st Round pick Chris Marrero, who's come out of the gate swinging according to reports out of Florida, after an injury-shortened season in 2012 [torn hamstring]. Chris Snyder's first home run of the Spring soared out to left-center off Marcum and it was 3-2 Nationals when Strasburg retook the mound in the bottom of the second. An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 inning had the Nats' right-hander at 42 pitches total after 2.0 IP, so he was done for the day in his first start of the Spring. 2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 42 P.
• Even early in Spring Training, you want to score a run when you get a runner on third with one down. Steve Lombardozzi walked to start the Nats' third, taking a free pass from top Mets' prospect pitching Zack Wheeler. Lombardozzi took second on a passed ball and third on a Bryce Harper groundout before he was stranded when Tyler Moore and Chad Tracy K'd swinging through 96 mph fastballs from Wheeler, the '09 SF Giants' 1st Round pick acquired by NY in the July 2011 trade that sent Carlos Beltran out west.
• Craig Stammen needed 19 pitches to retire the Mets in the third, with David Wright reaching on an error at third by Chad Tracy before Ike David rolled one to Chris Marrero at first to end the inning. Chris Snyder hit a two-out single up the middle in the Nationals' fourth to leave the veteran catcher 2 for 2 in his first game with the Nats, but Zack Wheeler completed his second scoreless to keep it 3-2 after three and a half in Tradition Field. Stammen gave up three singles and the lead in the bottom of the fourth, with Justin Turner and Jordany Valdespin singling with two down to score Marlon Byrd from second two outs after Byrd's leadoff single. 3-3 game.
• 23-year-old, 2011 Mets' 2nd Round pick Cory Mazzoni, a right-hander who pitched at High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton in 2012, gave up back-to-back singles to start the Nationals' fifth with Eury Perez lining to center and Lombardozzi grounding one back up the middle that was deep enough to allow Perez to reach second. A fly to right by Bryce Harper and a called strike three on Tyler Moore brought Chad Tracy to the plate with runners on second and third (after Will Rhymes -- running for Lombo) and Perez pulled off a double steal. Tracy K'd swinging too, however, and the Nats stranded two runners. 3-3 game in the 5th.
• Left-handed reliever Fernando Abad gave up a two-out walk to the Mets' left-handed hitting first baseman, Ike Davis. Abad got up 0-2 on 28-year-old Mets' outfielder Andrew Brown, but eventually issued the second of back-to-back two-out walks before striking Lucas Duda out to end a longer-than-necessary bottom of the fifth.
• Davey Johnson told reporters that he wasn't going to push or judge Bill Bray early this Spring as the veteran lefty works to fine tune his mechanics after a serious groin injury last year forced him to change his delivery. The reliever who signed as a free agent with the Nats this past December gave up back-to-back singles by Landon Powell and former National Brian Bixler before getting a double play grounder out of 28-year-old former Los Angeles Dodgers' outfielder Jamie Hoffman. Former D-Backs and A's OF Collin Cowgill doubled off the wall in center with two down to bring Powell in and make it 4-3 NY. Micah Owens booted a grounder to first by Omar Quintanilla and after Bill Bray picked it up, the pitcher forgot about the runner on third and allowed a hustling Cowgill to score to make it 5-3 New York.
• 25-year-old Mets' '09 7th Rounder Darin Gorski got Corey Brown looking to end the Nationals' sixth after an error in left by Andrew Brown let Will Rhymes on with two down. Still 5-3 NY. 26-year-old Nats' right-hander Erik Davis, who was acquired from the Padres for IF Alberto Gonzalez in a March 2011 trade and added to the 40-Man roster this winter to protect him from selection in the Rule 5 Draft, needed 21 pitches to get through a scoreless bottom of the seventh against the Mets, collecting 2 Ks along the way and impressing SNY Mets' announcer Keith Hernandez with his stuff.
• The Nats' "Large Animal" and 2012 Minor League Player of the Year Matt Skole walked in an eighth-ining at bat against the Mets' lefty Darin Gorski then went first-to-third™ on a one-out single by Zach Walters, but 2011 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon popped to short right for out no.2 and Jhonatan Solano grounded into a force at second to end the Nationals' half of the inning. Cole Kimball gave up a one-out walk to the Mets' Collin Cowgill, but got an inning-ending DP to complete a scoreless bottom of the eighth. Micah Owings reached safely on a grounder to the mound and off Mets' closer Bobby Parnell. An error at third by Brandon Hicks on what could have been a DP grounder brought Corey Brown up with two on and one out. Brown K'd swinging on a diving two-strike knuckle curve. Carlos Rivero grounded out to second. Ballgame.
5-3 Mets final.