Yunesky Maya made his first Major League start for the Nationals (Photo by C. Nichols/Nats News Network)
THE RESULT:  The Nationals Park radar gun wasn't working correctly in the first inning, so at least Washington Nationals "rookie" starting pitcher Yunesky Maya had some company in that regard.  Once the gun got going though, so did Maya.

Unfortunately, both developments came too late, and Maya got no help from his hitters, as the Nats managed just four hits all game and fell to the depleted New York Mets 4-1, before just 13,835, one of the smallest crowds at Nats Park for a non-rain game.

Maya, the 28-year old Cuban making his Major League debut, had trouble locating his fastball in the first inning, missing his target by 10 inches on a couple of occasions.  With one out in the first, Maya allowed back-to-back singles to Luis Hernandez and Carlos Beltran, setting up Ike Davis to club a mammoth home run to right center on another mislocated fastball.

Just like that, all the wind was out of the sales for yet another Nationals pitcher making his Major League debut.

Maya walked the next batter, but induced a 4-6-3 double play to get out of the inning.

In the second, Ruben Tejada looped a one-out double down the line in left field and scored on a line-drive single by Mets pitcher Dillon Gee -- his first major league hit.  Gee went 0-for-22 in Triple A this season.

But then Maya found his groove.  He slinged a few pitches at 3/4 arm slot for strikes, and that seemed to get him focused.  He started locating well with his curveball and change-up, and eventually found enough control with the fastball to spot it while mixing in his impressive assortment of breaking balls.

He retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced, allowing just one more walk.

Maya returns to dugout after a successful sacrifice bunt. (Photo by C. Nichols/Nats News Network)
Maya made just five starts in the minors for the Nats this season, going 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 21 1/3 innings.  Before that, he did not play competitive ball for over a year while he was in exile in the Dominican after defecting from his home country of Cuba. 

The starts he gets down the stretch are -- in effect -- his spring training, getting his feet wet pitching in Major League games and getting familiar with the speed of American baseball.

His opponent, Dillon Gee, had no problems adjusting to the bigs.  Also making his Major League debut, Gee (W, 1-0) breezed through seven innings.  He carried a no-hitter through five frames, losing his no-no ceremoniously when Willie Harris, hitting for Maya, drilled a solo home run to get the Nats on the board.

It was Harris' ninth homer of the season.

Willie Harris hit his ninth homer of the season. (Photo by C. Nichols/Nats News Network)
But that's all the offense the Nats could muster on the evening. 

Ryan Zimmerman and Alberto Gonzalez both singled off Mets closer Hisonori Takahashi in the ninth, but pinch-hitter Ivan Rodriguez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.  It was his N.L. leading 24th double-play grounder.

THE GOOD:  Relief pitching!  Ross Detwiler and Collin Balester combined for four shutout innings.  Detwiler gave up a hit and struck out two in his two innings, and Balester was untouchable, striking out three in two perfect innings, touching 95 on the gun.

Collin Balester threw two dominating innings of relief.  (Photo by C. Nichols/Nats News Network)
THE BAD:  The offense.  Morgan was 0-for-4.  Dunn was 0-for-4.  Desmond 0-for-3.  Bernadina 0-for-3.  Basically, they made Dillon Gee look like Roy Halladay.

THE UGLY:  Let's be frank, Pudge is hurting the team with his bat. There wasn't a writer in the press box that didn't not expect the double-play grounder. 

For all the intangibles that people associated with the team want you to believe about Pudge, for the season he's hitting .270/.293/.349.  Since his average peaked on April 22, he's at .242/.263/.310 in 321 plate appearances.

THE STATS:  6 Ks, 3 BBs, 1-for-3 with RISP, 5 LOB, 1 GIDP.

NEXT GAME:  Wednesday at 12:35 pm. Livan Hernandez (9-10, 3.81) hosts knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (9-6, 2.91).  We might not see a pitch faster than 78 MPH all day.

2 comments

  1. Anonymous // September 8, 2010 at 7:55 AM  

    So you are blaming Pudge for one at bat, when the rest of the line-up had at least three and couldn't do a thing. He is one of the reasons I am still watching this team in 2010.

  2. Dave Nichols // September 8, 2010 at 10:46 AM  

    Anon: I'm glad you have a reason to continue watching. I made mention of the teams struggles overall in the "bad" section. but yes, I'm blaming Pudge, and Riggleman, for him failing in his pinch-hit at bat in the 9th. he leads the league in grounding into double plays and that's exactly what he did in that situation.

    someone's gotta be the goat.