A day after 24-year-old Washington Nationals' right-hander Taylor Jordan made his major league debut in Citi Field in Flushing, Queens, New York's 23-year-old top prospect Zack Wheeler made his home debut in a Mets uniform in the finale of the three-game set with the visiting Nats. Jordan, an '09 9th Round pick, lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up five hits, three runs, one earned and two walks while striking out one batter and inducing nine groundouts. Wheeler didn't fare as well. The Mets' hard-throwing right-hander lasted 4 2/3, gave up six hits, two walks, five runs, all earned, and surrendered two home runs in what ended up a 13-2 loss.
Wheeler needed just thirteen pitches to get through a 1-2-3 first, but his fourteenth pitch ended up bouncing off the facade of the Pepsi Porch in right field when Adam LaRoche launched his 12th home run of the season on the first pitch of the second. Jayson Werth walked and scored on an Ian Desmond double. Desmond scored on an RBI single by Kurt Suzuki and Suzuki scored when Denard Span hit a 93 mph fastball to center for an RBI double that made it 4-0 Nats. Jayson Werth hit his eighth home run of 2013 in the third and the Nationals were up 5-0 early.
"I loved the way he started," Terry Collins told reporters after the game, "Strike after strike after strike. I don't know until I review some of the tapes where the location was, but second inning I think he came -- after Adam [LaRoche] hit the first pitch of the second inning -- it certainly got his attention. But he looked a lot more relaxed. I thought he threw some good pitches. I thought he was down in the zone again, but that certainly was not how we scripted it out to be, but as I said before the game, he's a work in progress and the future is still extremely bright and the ceiling is extremely high."
Wheeler was done after 89 pitches, 54 of them strikes. "You've got to like his arm," Davey Johnson said when asked for his thoughts on the opposing pitcher on Sunday. "He's got a good fastball and good breaking stuff. But it's command. It's always going to be command up here. No matter how hard you throw, you've got to locate and that's been a little bit of his problem."
It was a bit of a problem for Gio Gonzalez early in the game in New York. The Nats' lefty threw 25 pitches in the first, 17 strikes, eight balls and gave up a one-out single by Daniel Murphy and a walk to David Wright before retiring the next two batters in a scoreless opening frame. After that it was smooth sailing until the Nationals' starter's final inning of work. A visit to mound by Kurt Suzuki after the walk to David Wright in the first seemed to calm Gonzalez down. "They know each other so well," Johnson said of the pitcher and catcher whose history goes back to Oakland when they worked together with the A's, "And Gio has had a lot of high pitch first innings, which, and then he comes back and pitches a heck of a ballgame. That was no exception today."
Gonzalez retired eight straight following the one-out walk to Wright and visit from Suzuki in the first and he set 17 of 18 down overall after that, with a David Wright double in the fourth the only hit between Daniel Murphy's one-out single in the first and Josh Satin's single in the seventh. Satin's hit came after a walk to pinch hitter Zach Lutz. Gonzalez retired three straight following a visit by pitching coach Steve McCatty, however, and ended his outing at 119 pitches, 84 of them strikes in seven innings in which he gave up two walks and three hits, but no runs.
"He pitched a heck of a ballgame," Davey Johnson said. "He thanked me for leaving him in there at the end. That was his last batter he was going to face, that one there, but he was outstanding and it was nice to see the bats come alive. It will make that trip home a lot shorter, so it was a good one." A good day for the offense which collected 13 hits and 13 runs and a good day for Gonzalez who got run support and shut the Mets down. It was a good example, his manager said, of what the 28-year-old Nats' left-hander can do when he's at his best.
"It's unbelievable. His curve ball was a good pitch, and his changeup was an awful good pitch today too," Johnson said, "but when he especially keeps the fastball down -- and he seemed to get a better fastball as the game went on... it was a big win. Like I said, make the trip home shorter."
The Nationals start a four-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday, and one outfielder in particular is excited to get back on the field in the nation's capital:
Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) June 30, 2013
Davey Johnson's excited to get his 20-year-old slugger back too. "It will be good to get Harp back," the manager said, "He's going to be very aggressive and we just need to keep that momentum going."
"He carried us the first couple months," Johnson said, "and he was the one guy they centered on in the lineup. I mean, they had to pitch him tough. And our lineup is built to where everybody is tough in the lineup, so it's going to be good to get him back, and I'll figure out how to put them back together. But the original lineup, I still kind of lean toward the original way I had it lined up, so don't ask me no questions on that."
1. Denard Span; 2. Jayson Werth; 3. Bryce Harper; 4. Ryan Zimmerman; 5. Adam LaRoche; 6. Ian Desmond; 7. Anthony Rendon; 8. Kurt Suzuki...?
One More Highlight: Watch how far Desmond's home run goes...