The Washington Nationals were supposed to have Max Scherzer start their Grapefruit League finale on Wednesday against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, Florida, but with rumors of rain they decided to leave their opening day starter back in Viera to face minor leaguers and instead had a "bullpen day," with Trevor Gott starting against the Mets' Matt Harvey, who had an interesting weekend in his own right.
It never rained, except for Nats homers raining over the left field fence, and the team headed north with a 12-1 win over their division rivals, finishing the Grapefruit league at 18-4-3, outscoring their opponents 169-88.
The Nats went right to work against Harvey. After Ben Revere struck out on three fastballs, Anthony Rendon lashed a single up the middle, then stole second. Bryce Harper coaxed a walk, then Ryan Zimmerman crushed Harvey's first offering over the left field fence for his third home run of the season, putting the Nats up 3-0 after four hitters.
In the bottom of the inning, the Mets put two on against Trevor Gott, but Lucas Duda popped up to very shallow center, and Revere made an accurate, though not particularly strong, throw to home, and Wilson Ramos made a nice pick to apply the tag to David Wright trying to score. It's a play Ramos has traditionally had trouble with, so it's encouraging to see success at it in the spring.
Gott labored in his two innings of work. He put two on in the first, then in the second gave up another single and a walk, though benefited from a nice play by David Murphy to start a double play behind him. So, three hits and a walk total in two innings for the Nats impromptu "starter."
In the third, Sean Burnett took over on the hill. He got Syndergaard easy, then struck out lefty Curtis Granderson with an 88-mph fastball and got Wright to ground to short. Quick, effective.
The Nats went back at it in the fourth. Murphy sent a fly ball to center that Yoenis Cespedes butched and Murphy legged it out for a "triple." The next hitter, Jayson Werth, ripped a 95-mph fastball over the left field fence for a two-run shot and 5-0 lead. Encouraging to see Werth's bat speed there, turning on a strong fastball.
Matt Belisle gave up a couple of singles in the fourth, but got a couple of popups and struck out Asdrubal Cabrera to end the inning.
In the fifth, Blake Treinen got two quick outs (four pitches) against righties, then manager Dusty Baker called for Felipe Rivero to face fellow lefty Granderson. Granderson walked and Eric Campbell scratched out a hit before Rivero got Alejandro De Aza swinging.
Washington added to the lead in the sixth. With two outs and Reed Johnson on first after getting hit by reliever Zach Thornton, Stephen Drew sliced a fly ball the opposite way that carried over the fence in a stiff breeze to make it 7-0.
Shawn Kelley took over in the bottom half. He struck out Lucas Duda (after a foul ball home run), retired Neil Walker on a fly to left, gave up a walk to Michael Conforto and got out of it unscathed with a fly out by Cabrera. Veteran Oliver Perez threw a scoreless seventh, allowing a single while striking out two.
Nick Masset was called on for the eighth and he tried real hard to give up the shutout, walking two and allowing a single, but got a popup from catcher Johnny Monell to end the frame without a run.
The Nats picked up several against wholly ineffective Mets closer Jeurys Familia in the ninth. Michael Taylor doubled, then Matt den Dekker and Clint Robinson both walked on eight total pitches. Trea Turner's soft grounder got through third baseman Eric Campbell and two runs scored, then Reed Johnson singled through the hole to bring home another.
Familia struck out pinch-hitter Joe Ross (you read that right) and got a ground ball from Drew, but he dropped the relay from the first baseman, allowing Drew to reach and Turner to score to make it 11-0. Jhonatan Solano greeted new reliever Antonio Bastardo with a single up the middle to bring home Johnson with the Nats' 12th run.
Jonathan Papelbon entered the ninth in an obvious non-save situation, and the only suspense left was for a nine-pitcher shutout. But minor leaguer Travis Taijeron erased that, sending a Pap "fastball" to the scoreboard in left center to break up the shutout.