The Washington Nationals took advantage of some sloppy defense by their opponent and rode the terrific starting pitching of No. 5 starter Ross Detwiler to defeat the New York Mets 6-2, before a chilled crowd of 26,927 at Citifield.
Detwiler was scintillating. He was limited to 71 pitches by manager Davey Johnson in his first start of the season after making mostly relief appearances during spring training, but those 71 pitches were enough to get through five innings. Detwiler allowed just two hits and one walk, striking out six along the way.
The only real trouble Detwiler found himself in all night was in the first inning, after Ruben Tejada doubled and Ronny Cedeno singled putting runners on the corners with no outs in the bottom of the inning. But the 26-year old southpaw struck out Daniel Murphy, popped up Jason Bay and cut down Lucas Duda with a four-seam fastball to end the threat.
Ian Desmond continued his hot start of the season, going 2-for-4 and led the game off with his first home run of the season. Jayson Werth had his most productive night of 2012, going 4-for-5 with two RBIs — his first four-hit game since June 2009. And Ryan Zimmerman registered RBI No. 500 for his career on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.
The game was a tense, 1-0 nailbiter in the top of the sixth, but the Nats (3-2) busted out for three runs, thanks in part to a Daniel Murphy boot of a tailor-made double play ball that ended up in shallow center field, allowing Werth to score from second base. Werth never stopped running on the play and third base coach Bo Porter waved him in well ahead of the throw.
The next batter, Wilson Ramos, drilled a ball to right center that Lucas Duda misplayed up against the wall. Eventually, center fielder Scott Hairston retrieved it but not before Xavier Nady had crossed home plate and Ramos stood triumphantly at second base.
The Nats got insurance runs — something in rare commodity this early in the season – in the seventh and eighth innings. Werth followed a Zimmerman walk and Adam LaRoche double with a line drive to center to plate Zimmerman, and Zim’s bases loaded sacrifice fly brought home a lumbering Ramos from third in the eighth.
THE GOOD: Detwiler. This is the pitcher the Nats thought they drafted with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He wasn’t quite 95 MPH with the fastball in the 56 degree chill in Queens, but he sat 89-91 with his sinker and 92-93 with the four-seam fastball, which will do until the weather warms up. He worked up and down in the strike zone, throwing 50 of his 71 pitches for strikes. Getting out of that jam in the first was huge for his confidence.
THE BAD: Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda are both playing out of position for the Mets and it showed. Murphy is more suited for third base and Duda first, but in an attempt to get their bats in the lineup the Mets have to sacrifice defense. Duda especially looks out of place in right field. They both went 0-for-4, adding insult to injury. We feel ya, Mets fans.
THE UGLY: Michael Morse. The Nats clean-up hitter suffered a setback in his rehab of a strained right lat muscle. He removed himself from a rehab stint in Hagerstown Monday night, uncomfortable with the amount of pain he had trying to throw a ball from left field back to second base. Morse will not be activated for the home opener and now has an indefinite timetable for recovery.
THE STATS: 13 hits, four walks, 11 strikeouts. 4-for-14 with RISP, 11 LOB, two GIDPs. No errors.
NEXT GAME: Wednesday at 1:10 against the Mets at Citifield. Stephen Strasburg (0-0, 1.29) faces Johan Santana (0-0, 0.00).