An 89 mph 0-2 fastball outside from Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez got New York Mets' leadoff man Collin Cowgill swinging for the first out of the opening frame of the final Grapefruit League game. The fourth pitch Gonzalez threw this afternoon in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium was lined to right by Mets' infielder Daniel Murphy for a one-out single and Mike Baxter took a four-pitch, two-out walk from the Nats' starter, but the Nats' 21-game winning lefty got NY 3B Zach Lutz swinging with a full count heater for K no.2 and out no.3 of the top of the first. 21-pitch inning for Gonzalez.
21-year-old Mets' prospect Domingo Tapia started against the defending NL East Champs this afternoon after pitching at Class-A in New York's organization in 2012. The Domincan-born right-hander through 95 and 96 mph fastballs by Bryce Harper in a two-out at bat in the Nationals' half of the first, but the Nats' 20-year-old outfielder drove a 2-2 pitch to right for a single that left him 31 for 64 after 24 Grapefruit League games. Harper stole his sixth base in six attempts this Spring with Ryan Zimmerman at the plate, took third when the throw to second sailed into center, but was stranded when Zim K'd swinging to end the first. 0-0 after one.
A walk and a wild pitch put Kirk Nieuwenhuis on second with no one out in the Mets' second. Gio Gonzalez got Anthony Recker looking with a 3-2 fastball for out no.1 and K no.3. An 0-2 curve got Gonzalez a groundout to second from Omar Quintanilla for out no.2, and when he'd dispatched the opposing pitcher with a 1-2 fastball upstairs the Nats' starter was up to 42 pitches on the afternoon.
The Nationals and Gonzalez had a 1-0 lead after Adam LaRoche took a 2-0 pitch from Domingo Tapia deeeep to right field for a solo home run which left the Nats' first baseman 10 for 50 with four home runs one at bat into his 19th game. One out later, Danny Espinosa took a first-pitch fastball from Tapia for a ride, over the right field wall and out for another solo blast and a 2-0 Nats' lead. 26 for 74 this Spring for the Nats' second baseman.
Kurt Suzuki walked with one down in the second, moved up on an error on a sac bunt by Gio Gonzalez and then beat a throw home from Mets' left fielder Collin Cowgill when Denard Span lined to left for an RBI single that made it 3-0 Nationals. A walk to Roger Bernadina loaded the bases for Bryce Harper, who'd reached in 11-straight PAs (10 for 10 w/ a walk) after the first inning hit, and a sac fly to left made it 4-0 Nats... but ended the hit streak.
A groundout to first and a line drive to second got Gio Gonzalez the first two outs of the third on five pitches. Lucas Duda's fly to left ended the inning three pitches later with Gonzalez at 50 after 3.0 IP. Awkward Mets' sidewinder Greg Burke took over for New York in the bottom of the third and retired the Nationals in order.
Gio Gonzalez threw a 2-2 fastball by Mike Baxter for his fifth K in 2.1 IP. Another 2-2 heater sent Zach Lutz back to the bench. 6 Ks. And a third 2-2 heater to Kirk Nieuwenhuis made it three straight Ks and seven strikeouts total for the Nats' left-hander. 66 pitches total after a 16-pitch third. That was it for Gonzalez in his final Grapefruit League outing:
Solid tuneup for Gio, whose day is done. 4.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K. 66 pitches, 39 strikes— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 28, 2013
Craig Stammen took over in the top of the fifth and got help from Chad Tracy, who dove into foul territory to snag a sharp grounder and threw from his knees to get the Mets' catcher Anthony Recker at first. Stammen retired the Mets in order in an eight-pitch inning. After the Nationals went down in order in the fifth, Stammen was back on the mound. It took the Nats' right-hander 14 pitches to retire the side in order in the top of the sixth. 15-straight Mets set down, nine by Gio Gonzalez, and six-straight by Stammen. 4-0 DC in the 6th. Mets right-hander Jeurys Familia retired the Nationals in order in the bottom of the frame as everyone seemed eager to get this one over with.
24-year-old, 2010 11th Round pick Neil Holland, a right-hander out of the University of Lousville who pitched at Potomac last season, took over in the seventh and ended the streak of retired Mets at 16 when he issued a one-out walk to Zach Lutz. A Kirk Nieuwenhuis' single and a wild pitch put runners on second and third with one out and a sac fly by Anthony Recker got the Mets on the board. 4-1 Nats after six and a half.
Roger Bernadina walked with one down in the seventh and took second on a single to left by Tyler Moore. Catcher Jeff Howell singled to left and an error in the outfield by Jordany Valdespin allowed the Shark to score and make it a 5-1 game after seven. Neil Holland completed his second inning of work in the top of the eighth, getting a double play grounder from Darrell Ceciliani after a one-out HBP on Josh Rodriguez. 25-year-old Mets' right-hander Jeff Walters retired the Nationals in order in the bottom of the eighth. Still 5-1 Nats.
Rafael Soriano took the mound in the ninth and the Nats' new closer gave up a one-out walk but nothing else in a 23-pitch frame that completed the Grapefruit League schedule.