Spring is now officially here for BBRT. Last year, it began with a Yankees’ Spring Training game. See that post (Link Here). This year, it began at yesterday’s Mets/Nationals contest, at the Nationals’ Space Coast Stadium (Viera, Florida). While the score is of little impact (Mets won 7-5), the game had all BBRT has come to expect from Spring Training.
There was, of course, the very messy scorecard – The Nationals used 25 players (seven pitchers), while the Mets used 20 (just four pitchers). It was, however, still my first completed scorecard of 2014.
Like many spring games, it started out pretty “clean.” It was just 2-1 (in favor of the Nats) after seven innings – with a two-team total of 8 hits and two walks. And, like so many Spring Training contests, it got a little “loose” at the end – a total of nine runs on eight walks and seven hits in the final two frames.
Still, it was baseball in the sun – 63 degrees at game time, low seventies by the late innings. And, the price was right, right field box seats (row 5) for $22. And, as always, there was plenty to see and talk about - a controversial infield fly call in the seventh, fan conversation surrounding the use of designated hitters in a game involving two NL teams, hot dog vendors in short supply and spectators wondering why the umps were wearing jackets.
For BBRT, there was the first witnessed double play of the season (my season doesn’t really start until I see a twin killing). In top of the third, Nats’ third baseman Zach Walters made a nice backhanded grab, threw to second baseman Jeff Kobernus, who completed the play with a throw to first baseman Adam LaRoche. I got to see former Twins Denard Span (we still miss him in Minnesota) lead off for the Nats with a double, steal third and score on a ground out by Bryce Harper. LaRoche, Span, Harper, names we’ll hear a lot more about during the regular season.
There were a pair of unlikely hitting stars. The only home run of the game (a three-run shot in the eighth inning) came off the bat of Nationals’ first baseman Brock Peterson, who had replaced Adam LaRoche in the top of the inning. The 30-year-old Peterson had a mid-season call-up with the Cardinals last season (after a decade of minor league and independent ball). Peterson, who hit .296, with 25 homers and 86 RBI in 122 Triple A games last year, went just 2-for-26 with 11 strikeouts for the Cardinals in 2013 (and was released after the season). Trying to win a roster spot with the Nationals, the 1B is 7-for-18 (.389) with one home run and six RBI this spring.
The other player with three RBIs in the game was Mets’ right fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (gotta love the name on the back of the uniform). Known as a fine defensive outfielder, Nieuwenhuis hit just .236 in 138 games for the Mets over the past two seasons. He’s having a decent Spring Training (.304-1-7 in 10 games) – but is trying to retain a spot in a crowded Mets’ outfield. In this game, he earned his three RBI with a bases loaded walk in the eighth inning and the game-winning two-run single in the ninth (breaking a 5-5 tie).
The winning pitcher? Met’s righty Jacob deGrom, who arrived in the “winner’s circle” via a blown save, 1 1/3 innings pitched, with two hits, two walks, one earned run and one strikeout. (He came on with two outs and two on in the eighth and gave up Brock Peterson’s three-run, game-tying shot. ) deGrom who has yet to pitch at the MLB level is 1-0, 1.23 ERA this spring – giving up one run on four hits, with three walks and seven strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.
Also got to see a “prospect” BBRT is high on (see my prospect post here) – Mets 6’6” right hander Noah Syndergaard, a rookie being counted on for the 2014 rotation. Syndergaard was a little shaky, but did show good stuff – fanning five in 3 2/3 innings. He has ten Ks in 8 2/3 spring innings and last season struck out 11.5 per nine innings at AA.
A few other observations from this first game. 1) I completed my usually ball park Bloody Mary test. On the plus, they pour the vodka and let you add the mix and condiments (olives, celery, peppers, pickles, various hot sauces, salt, pepper.) On the negative – $12 price tag and the cup was simply identified as “Bloody Mary” – no team logo to make it a free souvenir. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Bloody Mary bar is still the best I’ve come across (see it here ). 2) A seagull nesting atop a light pole provided a particular Florida flavor to the game. 3) The Nat’s bullpen provided a friendly kind of wave and retrieved foul balls for young fans. 4) My first ball park hot dog of the year, with fried peppers and onions, was delicious (I was at a ball game, after all) and priced right at just $6; making up for the $12 Bloody Mary.
Ahhh! Spring is here!