The Washington Nationals and New York Mets started their respective Grapefruit League schedules this afternoon in Port St. Lucie, Florida's Tradition Field where the Nats won 5-4 on a ninth inning triple by outfield prospect Michael Taylor.
The first pitch of competitive action for both teams in the 2014 campaign came from 23-year-old Mets' right-hander Rafael Montero, who threw a fastball outside to new Nationals' outfielder Nate McLouth.
Taylor Jordan, 25, is one of the pitchers competing for the fifth spot in the Nationals' rotation this season.
New Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters this morning that he would be watching closely as the Nationals' '09 9th Round pick took the mound for the first time this Spring.
"Certainly his fastball is good," Williams said. "He runs it in there as hard as anybody. But, for me it's command of his changeup, I think is important today. Right now, first time out, breaking balls are breaking balls and some of them work and some of them don't right now. But to command the heater and the changeup is important today. I'm hoping he just doesn't get too amped up and goes out there and does his work. I think he'll be fine."
Jordan took the mound in the bottom of the first after a scoreless 12-pitch top of the frame for the Mets' starter and promptly surrendered a single to center by Chris Young, but three quick outs later the Nationals' right-hander was through an 11-pitch inning which ended when Ike Davis K'd looking at a belt-high change inside that was called strike three.
Nationals' outfielder Eury Perez got the start in center this afternoon and helped Taylor Jordan out with a diving catch on a fly ball off Lucas Duda's bat for the second out of what ended up being a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the second inning for the Nats' starter. Jordan's first outing ended after two scoreless in which he threw 21 pitches.
Taylor Jordan's first Grapefruit League start is done. 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K. He threw 21 pitches, 16 strikes. AJ Cole in now for #Nats— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) February 28, 2014
A.J. Cole took the mound for the Nationals in the bottom of the third inning.
Matt Williams said last week that Cole, a 22-year-old, 6'4'', right-handed, 2010 4th Round pick, has what the manager described as, "... the ultimate pitcher's body."
"It's long and then he gets out front and the ball explodes out of his hand," Williams said. "I like it."
Cole gave up a leadoff double by Mets' catcher Travis d'Arnaud, who sent a sharp grounder by third base and into left field, but two outs later, with d'Arnaud still standing at second, Mets' shortstop Ruben Tejada lined out to Nats' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to end a 14-pitch inning for the Nationals' right-hander.
With the Nationals hitless through three and a half (having struck out six times), Cole retook the mound in the bottom of the fourth and gave up back-to-back, two-out hits, a line drive single to left by Mets' third baseman Josh Satin and a broken-bat, ground-rule double to right by Lucas Duda before a grounder back to the mound by Wilmer Flores ended a 21-pitch inning. Two scoreless for Cole, 35 pitches total.
Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond grounded into a force at second after bearded first baseman Adam LaRoche broke up the Mets' combined no-hitter with a leadoff single in the top of the fifth. Desmond stole his first base of the spring in the next at bat, then scored when Wilson Ramos drilled a one-out double off the left field wall to give the Nats a 1-0 lead over the Mets in the fifth.
Christian Garcia took over on the mound for the Nationals in the bottom of the fifth and gave up a few hard-hit balls as Juan Lagares and Kirk Nieuwenhuis connected for back-to-back, one-out singles. Mets' outfielder Cesar Puello followed with two-out, line drive double to left that drove in two runs and Ike Davis made it a 4-1 New York lead when he took a hanging curve from Garcia to right for a two-run blast. 18-pitch inning for the Nats' right-hander.
Nationals' left-hander Xavier Cedeno, considered the front runner for a bullpen spot if the Nationals decide to keep two lefties, faced two left-handed hitters in the bottom of the sixth. Cedeno retired Lucas Duda on a sharp groundout to first, but issued a two-out walk to Mets' catcher Anthony Recker and had a fly to left fall in for a ground-rule double when Steven Souza lost a fly ball off Juan Lagares' bat in the wind. Given the chance to face a second lefty, however, Cedeno got Kirk Nieuwenhuis swinging to end a scoreless frame. 4-1 Mets.
Zach Walters crushed a first-pitch fastball from Mets' LHP Adam Kolarek, doubling off the left field wall to start the Nationals' seventh. One out later, Walters scored from second base when catcher Koyie Hill drove him in with a sharp grounder through the left side of the infield that made it a 4-2 game.
Steven Souza lined to right with two on and two out in the Nationals' seventh and a throwing error by Mets' right fielder Cesar Puello, who overthrew home, allowing Koyie Hill to score and cut New York's lead in half, 4-3 in the seventh...
Aaron Barrett threw a 12-pitch seventh inning, giving up a leadoff single before he got a 4-3 DP and a groundout to first that Matt Skole scooped up and handled. Still 4-3 NY.
Skole doubled to center field, hustling around to slide in safely at second ahead of a throw in by Mets' outfielder Matt den Dekker. Zach Walters' second double of the day was a hard-hit liner to center in the next at bat which brought Skole around and tied the game at 4-4. Walters: 2 for 2, 2 doubles.
Manny Delcarmen, another right-hander battling for a bullpen spot this Spring, struck out two on the way to a scoreless 15-pitch eighth inning in which he gave up a single, but nothing else.
Jeff Kobernus singled with one down in the ninth of Mets' minor league closer Jeff Walters and scored when Nats' minor league outfielder Michael Taylor took a low 2-0 fastball outside to center field for an RBI triple that gave the Nationals a 5-4 lead.
Former Minnesota Twins' lefty Tyler Robertson came on in the ninth for the Nationals and retired the Mets in order to close out the win in game one of Grapefruit League action.