The audience: 30,114 in paid attendance.
The critics: an overflowing Press Box with Taiwanese media swarming.
The stage: Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
The Man of the Hour: Chien-Ming Wang
When right-handed starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang was acquired by the Washington Nationals in 2010, many wondered if he would have a successful recovery following surgery on a capsule in his right shoulder.
Wang, who won 19 games each in 2006 and 2007 for the New York Yankees, missed the rest of the team’s championship season in 2009 due to injury. Friday night was his first night back on a Major League mound.
It was a shaky start but Nationals manager Davey Johnson admitted he was impressed with what he saw despite Wang allowing four runs, four singles, and a leadoff walk to the first five batters he faced.
Wang gave up eight hits, six runs (four earned), one walk and two strike outs. He threw 60 pitches and 39 for strikes.
The Nationals main concern for Wang is health at this point and building up his strength is a major component of that. Johnson mentioned that while Wang, who struggled to find his pitch location until the second inning, doesn’t think he’s fully strong just yet. It will take time to strengthen and get back to his full potential.
The Wang that pitched Friday night was an arm was fresh to the league, much like a player’s return to Spring Training camp in March. The batters faced were post-All-Star game bats.
That, of course, doesn’t matter though.
Washington lost 8-5 to the New York Mets after starting out with a 4-0 deficit in the top of the first inning. Laynce Nix helped support the Nationals’ offense in the fourth inning after hitting a ball to New York’s second baseman Justin Turner. Ryan Zimmerman scored, giving Nix an RBI, and Michael Morse reached as well due to a throwing error by shortstop Jose Reyes to first baseman Daniel Murphy.
There were two more ample opportunities for the Nationals to score, both of which were bases loaded situations that they failed to take advantage of. The first opportunity was in the sixth inning. Jayson Werth, who reached base twice with one hit and three strikeouts, walked with two outs. Nix returned to the plate for his second hit of the night to move Werth around the bases. Newly acquired Jonny Gomes came up to pinch hit and walked to load the bases but Wilson Ramos popped out to end the potentially run rally.
Washington showed signs of life again in the eigth inning by scoring two runs off an unlikely string of singles from Nix, pinch hits Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Jesus Flores, and couple more hits from Wilson Ramos and Rick Ankiel but Danny Espinosa and Zimmerman struck out to end the rally with the bases loaded again.