3/28/2013 6:15 P.M. ET
LaRoche, Espinosa go yard in Nats' win
Gio yields one hit, fans seven over four shutout frames in spring finale
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals closed out their Grapefruit League season on a high note, beating the division rival Mets, 5-1, at Space Coast Stadium on Thursday afternoon.
The Nationals will head north to take on the Yankees in an exhibition game Friday in Washington, while the Mets will wrap up their Grapefruit League slate on Friday against the Cardinals in Port St. Lucie.
Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa both homered in a four-run second inning that gave the Nats a comfortable lead and chased Mets starter Domingo Tapia. Meanwhile, Washington starter Gio Gonzalez was excellent through four shutout innings, striking out seven in his final exhibition start. He's in line to pitch the Nationals' second game of the regular season.
"I think what it is, is just trying to get work in a little bit, trying to pound that first-pitch strike and trying to get the first out of every inning," Gonzalez said. "That's what [catcher Kurt Suzuki] and I were sitting down and talking about in the bullpen. 'What do we want to work on today? What do we want to do?' Obviously, the last game, you don't want to slack."
Tapia, projected to begin the season with Class A Port St. Lucie in the Mets' system, struggled throughout. Nine Nationals hitters came to the plate in the four-run second that also included RBIs for Bryce Harper and Denard Span.
After singling in his first at-bat of the afternoon, Harper's streak of consecutive plate appearances reaching base ended at 11 in the second when he lined out to left field, though he still drove in a run on the play. His Grapefruit League batting average closes at a remarkable .484.
In his first game action this spring, Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy went 1-for-3, reaching on a broken-bat single in his first at-bat. Greg Burke threw a scoreless 1 2/3 innings of relief for New York.
Up next: Jordan Zimmermann will start opposite Yankees veteran Andy Pettitte at 2:05 p.m. ET on Friday. The game, which should feature all the Nationals regulars in the starting lineup, will be televised free on MLB.TV.