Chris Capuano tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings, Nick Evans had a two-run double off Jason Marquis and Scott Hairston had a three-run triple off Tyler Clippard as the Mets beat the Nationals, 7-4, on Saturday in Port St. Lucie.
In the other split-squad game, Willie Harris had a solo homer off Rodrigo Lopez and Blaine Boyer, Taylor Buchholz, Ryota Igarashi and Eric Niesen combined for five scoreless relief innings as the Mets and Braves tied 3-3 in 10 innings.
New York Mets
• Capuano dominated Washington in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. The all-but-officially-announced No. 5 starter held the Nationals hitless until Ian Desmond dropped a single in front of right fielder Lucas Duda with two out in the fourth inning. Capuano went on to allow three total hits while walking none and striking out five in a 78-pitch effort.
Desmond, who reached on a first-inning fielder’s choice one batter after a throwing error by David Wright, was erased when Capuano’s pickoff move to Evans at first base resulted in a caught stealing.
“I had a good rhythm today,” Capuano said. “I started overthrowing a little the last two innings. But, overall, 90 percent of the pitches had a good rhythm and tempo to them.”
Capuano underwent the second Tommy John surgery of his career on May 15, 2008. After missing two full seasons, Capuano returned with the Milwaukee Brewers last June 3 and went on to go 4-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 24 appearances (nine starts).
His top season came in ’05, when he went 18-12 with a 3.99 ERA and made 35 starts.
“It’s as good as I’ve felt in three or four years,” Capuano said. “Physically, it’s nice to be able to just focus on the baseball part of the game and not worry about the health side of it.”
Said Terry Collins: “That’s as advertised from what I heard. Down in the zone. Strike, strike, strike. Every pitch. Up, down. He got a couple of strikeouts on balls that were up. He stayed down, so when he came up they couldn’t lay off it. Outstanding job. Just an artistic job of pitching.”
Collins has yet to name Chris Young and Capuano his fourth and fifth starters, but that’s the intention. Capuano actually is expected to work out of the bullpen the first road trip, and make his starting debut as a Met on April 9 against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, after R.A. Dickey gets the home opener the previous day.
“Chris Young and Cappy have done nothing except lived up to everything people have told me,” Collins said.
• Jose Reyes’ two singles were of the infield variety against the Nats, but that actually should excite Mets fans. Reyes’ legs are back, he says, and are feeling about as good as they have at any point since he had 2009 surgery that removed the hamstring tendon in his right leg.
“Last year, in the middle of the season, when I had my confidence back, for a little while, I felt good,” Reyes said. “And then I had a problem with the oblique. That slowed me down a little bit. This year, I put a lot of work to get my speed back. I don’t want to say it’s like 2006, 2007, but it’s close.”
As for the work to get his legs back under him, Reyes said: “I do a lot of sprinting. I got my legs stronger, too, because the leg that I had surgery, the tendon is not there anymore. They took it out. I had to put in a lot of work on that leg to get it stronger like the other one. And now it’s good.”
• The Mets scored four first-inning runs against Nats starter Jason Marquis, but they actually ran into two outs that inning. On Evans’ two-run double, Duda went too far around third and was thrown out by catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Then, Evans was thrown out at the plate to end the inning while trying to score from second on Josh Thole’s single.
New York Mets
Evans might get a second life to make the club if Carlos Beltran opens the season on the DL. Evans is out of options, and would need to be exposed to waivers if the Mets attempt to send him to the minors. But if Evans makes the club and then is sent through waivers once Beltran is activated during the regular season, he probably has a fair chance of clearing and being assigned to Triple-A Buffalo, since other teams' rosters are mostly committed at that point.
“I like Nick Evans a lot,” Collins said. “I like his bat. He can play some first and third. If you need to give Ike [Davis] a day off, he’s that right-handed bat that can go play first base. He’s played third here. He’s played both outfield [corner] positions."
Collins also said the opposing manager would have to respect Evans being a homer threat off the bench.
"That’s somebody you better have somebody ready for," Collins said.
• Oliver Perez’s official line: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 HR. Pedro Beato was charged with the two other runs in the seventh when Jeff Frazier launched the three-run homer against Perez.
• Jason Bay walked in all three of his plate appearances.
• Hairston upped his Grapefruit League average to .417 with a 2-for-3 game against Washington that included a three-run triple. Hairston manned center field Saturday, but very likely will be stationed in right field on Opening Day assuming Beltran lands on the disabled list.
Hairston has appeared in only eight major league games in right field, although the three starts all came last season with the San Diego Padres.
“I’m comfortable now,” Hairston said. “A few years ago, when I first got out there, it was a little uncomfortable. But I’ve done a lot of work out there, whether it be taking groundballs, fly balls. Earlier on in the spring I did a lot of work. I feel great out there.”
• Francisco Rodriguez allowed one hit and struck out one in a scoreless eighth inning. K-Rod was pitching for the second consecutive day for the first time this spring. In seven spring appearances spanning 7 2/3 innings, Rodriguez has limited opponents to four hits, one walk and one hit batter while striking out eight. He has yet to surrender a run.
New York Mets
• Ronny Paulino caught in a Grapefruit League game for the first time since getting his visa issue resolved and arriving in camp. He replaced Thole for the sixth inning and completed the game behind the plate while going 0-for-1.
• Daniel Murphy (3-for-5, RBI) got away with a generous call from second base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt in the first inning. After Danny Espinosa reached on Wright’s throwing error, Desmond grounded to third base. Wright threw to Murphy, who stepped toward the third baseman and well off the bag before the baseball had arrived.
Normally, infielders are given latitude when they come off the bag, but Murphy would have tested the outer limits of umpire generosity in a regular-season game. Three innings later, Murphy was more conservative holding second base on a near-identical grounder to third base by Michael Morse.
Collins was overly generous in his evaluation of Murphy’s first-inning play.
“He thought about trying to turn the double play,” Collins said. “You’ve got to go get that ball. One of the things we’re trying to get Dan to do is on that slow roller to third, you’ve got to go get the baseball. And he went and got the baseball.”
• Facing the Braves at ESPN Wide World of Sports, left-hander Pat Misch allowed three earned runs and four hits while walking one and striking out two in five innings. Brooks Conrad delivered a two-run homer against him in the fourth.
• Boyer, who is liked by the front office, making him at least a candidate for the Opening Day bullpen, even if it’s an uphill battle because he’s on a minor league deal, tossed a scoreless sixth.
• Brad Emaus went 0-for-3 against the Braves, but reached base twice on walks.