As Roark labors, Eaton homers in spring debut (Nats lose 9-7)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Adam Eaton’s reconstructed knee has been getting put to the test today, though it couldn’t have been bothering him too much as he rounded the bases following a dramatic home run.

Tanner Roark, meanwhile, slogged through a ragged start that lasted only three innings, included some wild command and low radar gun readings.

Put it all together, and it’s already been an eventful game between the Nationals and Mets.

Adam-Eaton-run-spring-sidebar.jpgEaton got a nice ovation from the crowd (and even from the home dugout) when he stepped to the plate to bat for the first time in a big league game since he tore the ACL in his left knee nearly 11 months ago. He popped up to second base in that at-bat, but the real highlight came in his next at-bat when he took an 0-1 pitch from Rafael Montero deep to right-center for a home run.

Eaton rounded the bases to another ovation, then got a low-five from teammate Michael A. Taylor in the on-deck circle.

In the field, Eaton was tested, as well. He had to track down a bloop hit down the left field line in the top of the second, tiptoeing on the warning track as he approached the padded wall. Later in the inning, he tried to chase down a drive by Jay Bruce, getting twisted around before the ball glanced off his outstretched glove just short of the fence.

No matter what, the simple fact Eaton played today was reason to be excited. Roark’s outing, on the other hand, might have been reason for concern.

Though he looked strong in the first inning, striking out a pair and allowing only a bunt single, Roark labored extensively in the top of the second. At one point he issued three straight walks, with a run-scoring wild pitch mixed in. By the time the inning ended, the Mets had scored three runs and Roark’s pitch count stood at a whopping 59.

Roark got through the third without allowing another run, but his fastball velocity dropped to 87-88 mph on the stadium radar gun and he continued to look uncomfortable on the mound. Whether that was any cause for concern or simply one bad blip in mid-March remains to be seen.

Whatever the case, Roark wound up getting pulled after three innings, having already reached his predetermined pitch count of 75.

Update: The Nationals got one strong inning of relief from Sammy Solís, who struck out three while walking one in the top of the fourth. Edwin Jackson was not so fortunate in the top of the fifth, serving up a two-run homer to Wilmer Flores (who hit a ball off the top of the fence his previous at-bat). Eaton, meanwhile, is done for the day after four innings in the field, two at-bats and one dramatic home run. The Nats trail 5-3 after five.

Update II: There’s good news and bad news. The good news: Moisés Sierra hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to give the Nationals the lead. The bad news: Enny Romero gave up four runs in the top of the eighth to leave the Nats in a 9-6 hole.

Update III: Sierra delivered an RBI single in the ninth, but the Nats lost 9-7.

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