With Opening Day right around the corner, manager Davey Johnson gave most of the Washington Nationals regulars the day off from the long road trip to Port St. Lucie to face the New York Mets. Those that did make the trip, plus a collection of minor league journeymen for the most part, fell to the Mets 3-1 at Tradition Field.
Gio Gonzalez was efficient in six innings of work, allowing one earned run on four hits and a walk with three strikeouts, throwing 49 of his 83 pitches for strikes. The Mets got to Gonzalez for the run in the second inning. Gio walked the leadoff batter, catcher John Buck, on four pitches — and the walk came back to bite him. Lucas Duda followed with a single to right field that moved Buck to third base, and minor leaguer Zach Lutz lofted a fly ball to center to bring him home.
It was the last time the Mets would have a runner get past first base the rest of the outing against Gonzalez.
The Nats tied the game in the seventh against Mets lefty reliever Josh Edgin using mostly minor leaguers. Steve Lombardozzi led off with a single and took second on Jimmy Van Ostrand’s single to center. Jose Lozada reached on an error by first baseman Lutz to load the bases. Roger Bernadina struck out on three pitches for the first out of the inning, but minor league utility infielder Francisco Soriano brought home Lombardozzi with a sacrifice fly to left field. Justin Bloxom coaxed a walk to load them up again, but Jerad Head struck out swinging to end the threat.
Drew Storen took over for Gio in the seventh, but his spring training struggles continued. Duda, slated to be the Mets opening day right fielder, took Storen’s 3-1 fastball over the fence in right to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Storen walked shortstop Ruben Tejada on four pitches, but got out of the inning without further damage, striking out two, though his spring ERA rose to an unsightly 5.40.
The Mets picked up another run in the eighth against Zach Duke. Andrew Brown singled and took second when Duke hit Brandon Hicks. Former Nats Brian Bixler struck out, but Mets top prospect Travis d’Arnaud singled to center to plate Brown. But center fielder Billy Burns fired a strike to third to nail Hicks trying to go first-to-third. and Duke got Omar Quintanilla to ground out to end the frame.
The Nats threatened in the top of the ninth, but Jerad Head flied out with two men on to end the game.
Washington hosts the Atlanta Braves Sunday at 1:05 pm.