Desmond shines, but long ball downs Nats
Righty Mock unable to find groove in windy conditions
NEW YORK -- The Nationals were hurt by the long ball as they lost to the Mets, 8-2, at Citi Field on Friday night.
The Nationals have lost three out of their first four games of the season. The offense and pitching were missing in action on this day.
Washington got off to a great start as Ian Desmond hit a two-run triple off New York starter Mike Pelfrey in the second inning. But that would be all the damage the Nationals would do against Pelfrey as they collected two hits the rest of the game. Pelfrey lasted six innings and allowed just the two runs on four hits.
"We have to add on. As we sit here and focus [on the pitching], we have to score more runs," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "We just can't score a couple of runs and think that's going to do the job. We need to score more runs period."
It was the Mets who did most of the damage. They were able to get Washington right-hander Garrett Mock out of the game by the fourth inning. Mock looked like the same guy who had trouble throwing strikes in his last two Spring Training starts, which included a game against the Astros' Minor League team.
Not only did he throw a lot of pitches and walk five batters, Mock gave up solo home runs to Jeff Francoeur and Rod Barajas to make it a 2-2 game.
Mock blamed his disappointing performance on the windy conditions, which prevented him from throwing his pitches for strikes. Of the 84 pitches Mock threw, 30 of them came in the first inning even though he didn't allow a run in the frame.
"It was really windy. The wind was in my face. The ball had a ton of movement on it," Mock said. "Everything I said, everything I believed in and worked on all spring has been attack the strike zone and throw it over the plate. On the other hand, I'm not going to say, the ball is going all over the place and just baby one in there for the sake of throwing strikes.
"I'm not going to say it's the baseball's fault, but I really couldn't get a grip [on it]. I did everything I could -- trying to keep my hands moist, licking my fingers. I was just uncomfortable."
Of the four starting pitchers, only right-hander Craig Stammen has pitched at least five innings this season. If this keeps up, the Nationals are going to have a bullpen that is taxed by late April.
"That can't continue. That's not going to work," Riggleman said. "To this point, it's not an excuse to bring a domino effect on our bullpen. We've already had an off day. We are carrying eight relievers. With eight relievers, nobody has been overtaxed or anything. ... But if your starters [continue to] go three to five innings, it will cause problems that you can't solve. The starters obviously have to pitch deeper in the game."
It was reliever Miguel Batista who ended up taking the loss, when he gave up a solo homer to Barajas in the sixth to make it a 3-2 game.
Barajas and Batista are familiar with each other, they were teammates for two years while playing with the D-backs in the early 2000s. Barajas had a feeling Batista was going to throw him a cutter in that sixth inning.
"We played together, so I kind of know his repertoire," Barajas said. "I just felt at that point I was going to get a cutter. He threw the cutter and he left it in a spot [where] I was able to take a good a good path [to the ball]. I just got enough of it."
New York put the game out of reach as it scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Francoeur highlighted the scoring by hitting a two-run homer off Tyler Walker. It was Francoeur's second homer of the night.
The Mets added two more runs in the bottom eighth off Walker. Alex Cora and David Wright had RBI singles. For the night, Washington's bullpen allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings, and three of those runs were charged to Walker.
After the game, Walker said he was not affected by the wind. He simply had to make better pitches.
"I threw a hanging slider to Francoeur," Walker said. "The second inning I threw some good pitches. They found some holes. There is no excuse for it. You just make pitches."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.