A New York Welcome

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We were back at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie for our second evening affair with the Mets on Tuesday, where we received some true New York hospitality. Right in the middle of the Nationals batting practice, the sprinklers went off around the infield, spraying everything in sight. Most of the players and coaches didn’t bat an eye, and just kept on with their routine, waiting for the water to subside. Only it didn’t stop. Not for a solid five minutes, at which point third base coach Bo Porter, who was on the rail of the dugout, began jokingly chiding anyone and everyone around.

The sprinklers went off during Nationals batting practice in Port St. Lucie on Tuesday.

“What, did the grounds crew take the day off?” he started, then spread the playful blame to his fellow coaches. “Davey, isn’t this your job? I thought you ran things around here.”

Finally, the water stopped, allowing the players to get back to business without getting soaked. We knew unexpected, five-minute showers were commonplace in Florida, but this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. All kidding aside, it’s a telling sign of the attitude of the players and coaches, the way they handled the situation. Nobody complained or got too bent out of shape, and everyone just went on about their business.

As for the game, the lineup gave Nats fans a good look at how deep this club is up the middle of the diamond. With Steve Lombardozzi and Mark DeRosa playing the corners on the infield and Brett Carroll and Roger Bernadina behind them in left and right, you could argue that Washington was fielding an up-the-middle player at every position Tuesday night. Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond were in their regular spots at catcher, second base and shortstop, respectively, with Rick Ankiel manning center field behind Stephen Strasburg. Unfortunately, the Mets shut down the Nats, posting a 2-0 win behind starter Dillon Gee.

Strasburg looked as sharp as he’s been this spring, starting at 93-95 on the stadium gun and moving up to 96-97 by the second inning. He struck 97 for the first time as he painted a called third strike on the outside black against Lucas Duda for his first K of the night. Two batters later, he sawed off Josh Thole with a 96 mile-per-hour heater and narrowly avoided the barrel of the bat as it bounced past the pitcher’s mound on a comebacker. In the end, Strasburg allowed a single run on just two hits, walking one and fanning three in five full innings of work, extending his pitch count to 85.

Stephen Strasburg squares off against the Mets in at Digital Domain Park.

One last thought on Digital Domain Park – we couldn’t really put our fingers on it last time we were here, but there’s something funny about the acoustics here. Perhaps it’s the way the seating area is shaped, or the concrete canopy that encompasses the bowl from third to first base, but every ball has that special pop off the bat. It’s a sound that sportswriters are trained to recognize, the one of a ball well struck, that pulls the head away from the computer screen if one is otherwise occupied. As it turned out, there was a lot of head-snapping for what proved to be nothing more than routine fly balls Tuesday night, as neither team recorded a hit until the third inning, when Strasburg hit a one-hop rocket that ate up Daniel Murphy at second base for an infield single. While it takes some time to get used to, it actually makes for an entertaining game experience.

Washington is back at home Wednesday to host the Braves. Here are the team’s results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – W, 8-0

@ Miami – L, 3-0

vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2

@ Detroit – T, 5-5

@ St. Louis – Canceled (rain)

vs. St. Louis – W, 8-4

vs. Detroit – L, 6-3

@ Atlanta – L, 6-5

vs. New York (AL) – L, 8-5

@ New York (AL) – L, 4-3 (10)

vs. Miami – T, 1-1

vs. Detroit – L, 11-7

@ New York (NL) – L, 2-0

vs. Atlanta – Wednesday, 1:05pm

Overall Record: 5-9-3

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