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Roundtable: 2006 Opening Day, Nationals at Mets

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday April 03, 2006 1:10 PM ET 2006 Opening Day, Nationals at Mets roundtable.

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Joe Sheehan (9:56:19 AM PT): Welcome to the 2006 baseball season!

Steven Goldman (9:59:27 AM PT): Ditto... For the chronically late, like myself. What do you know, Joe?

Joe Sheehan (10:01:25 AM PT): One of the cool things about this year is that there's actually an Opening Day. 26 of the 30 teams play today, with the exceptions being last night's contestants and the Blue Jays and Twins.

Now if we could just get this kind of scheduling on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day...

Steven Goldman (10:02:35 AM PT): This was supposedly going to be a priority of Chairman Selig's this year, getting more games on holidays.

Steven Goldman (10:04:48 AM PT): Of course, hizzoner the Selig has been a bit distracted, what with the shocking revelation of performance enhancing drug use in baseball. You see, information from our distant planet must travel many light years before it reaches the Chairman on Betelgeuse.

Kevin Goldstein (10:04:58 AM PT): Wait a second -- Berman is doing this game? I would have never agree to this if I knew it was Berman.

Jonah Keri (10:05:06 AM PT): The Blue Jays and Twins of course vying for the most bizarre transaction of the week award, with Jason Bartlett demoted and Guillermo Quiroz chucked overboard in the last few days.

Joe Sheehan (10:05:11 AM PT): Looks like 14 (including @Toronto) on Memorial Day, a full schedule on 7/4 (a Tuesday, and 14 games on the Monday it'll be celebrated), and a full schedule on Labor Day. Points for Mr. Selig.

Steven, you're a history guy, why are doubleheaders extinct?

Joe Sheehan (10:07:15 AM PT): The Nats are in the mix, with Brandon Watson > Ryan Church. I think there was a lot of weirdness over the past week.

Steven Goldman, History Guy (10:07:52 AM PT): Follow the money, as Hal Holbrook said (what was he doing on the Sopranos last night?). It's a labor issue; players don't want to play 'em, and teams want the extra gate for a seperate game. I guess they could charge split admissions, but it's not quite the same thing as the old double-headers.

Steven Goldman Avoids Religion as a Topic (10:09:48 AM PT): Christina has covered the separation of Church and Nats in detail in TA and reaped the whirlwind. I'm not touching that with a ten-foot burning bush. Maybe a burning Bush.

Kevin Goldstein, Brandon Watson Supporter (10:12:05 AM PT): In 2003, as a 21 year old, Watson hit 319/362/375 at AA. Last year at 23, he hit 355/400/419 at AAA -- I'm not saying he's better than Church, but if those lines were 275/362/375 and 285/400/419 somebody would be selling Free Brandon Watson shirts. With the defensive advantage (Church was pretty miscast in center), the difference isn't massive.

Joe Sheehan (10:14:05 AM PT): Maybe we could add this to Predicatron and HM as a contest: pick the most self-mutilating transaction of the year. Already we have the ones above, plus the Royals claiming a backup 2B on waivers so they could release their, what, second- or third-best outfielder?

Does Glavine get 300 wins?

Joe Sheehan (10:24:00 AM PT): I lost a comment on Watson to the ether, but basically, he's an extreme BA/nothing else hitter. If he hits .280, he's pretty useless, and he's playing in a brutal park. Church is the better player right now, even with the defense.

Watson's comps: Alex Sanchez, Jason Tyner. Yeeks.

Steven Goldman (10:24:15 AM PT): Does that mean the Royals sign Junior Spivey and cut... um... Hal McRae? Brian McRae? Fred MacMurray?

Steven Goldman, Glavine Detective (10:27:04 AM PT): In working on the Mets chapter for this year's annual, we tried to get the Mets to give us some insight into Glavine's second-half turnaround, but they wouldn't say anything.

Jonah Keri (10:29:13 AM PT): Glavine's on the Jamie Moyer career path, and Moyer's hung around a good 2 years past what we might have expected. He'll hang around and be able to be roughly a league-average or slightly lower pitcher for a while longer. So yeah, I think he does it.

Joe Sheehan (10:30:55 AM PT): I don't see any reason why he can't be a 4.00 ERA/200-inning guy for a few more years, and that's valuable. What, after 17 years the league is finally going to catch up to him? Jamie Moyer is basically the same guy, a couple years older, and still effective. What was Warren Spahn like at this age, Steven?

Steven Goldman (10:33:48 AM PT): The thing about Spahn was that he was pretty good, but when the end came, it came really fast. He won 23 games as a 42-year-old, but that was it. The next year he was done. No soft landing.

Steven Goldman (10:34:46 AM PT): If Casey hadn't gotten PO'd at Spahn in 1942 and/or if Spahn hadn't been drafted at that point, he probably would have won 400 games. As it was he won 363 starting at age 25.

Steven Goldman (10:38:06 AM PT): Why Willie Randolph annoys me as a manager - and as a Yankees guy who grew up with Willie, I SO want to root for him: A batting order that has Cliff Floyd batting #6 because Reyes and Lo Duca are batting 1-2.

Joe Sheehan (10:39:55 AM PT): Conceding that some of those wins are era-related (pitchers got more decisions, etc.), that's an amazing feat. Spahn probably doesn't get as much play in the "greatest ever" discussions, but if you exclude guys who largely pitched before 1920, it's pretty much him, Grove and Clemens, right?

Steven Goldman (10:42:15 AM PT): He has to be up there, but it's kind of an apples and oranges thing. Spahn had four K titles, but they were more a function of innings pitched than his having a Clemens/Grove-level fastball. Spahn was one of the smarter thinking pitchers, as opposed to stuff pitchers.

Joe Sheehan (10:43:18 AM PT): Good point, Steven. I was thinking about that when they made the first two outs of the game for the Mets. It's things like that that pushed me to pick the Braves, with the Mets third. I just don't think the talent will be aligned properly.

What's weird is that Randolph was one of the smarter players of his era, a great OBP guy and good defender.

Kevin Goldstein (10:44:31 AM PT): Brandon Watson! Oh the intangibles!

Steven Goldman (10:45:21 AM PT): He almost seemed to be learning last year, wavering at one point about Reyes in the leadoff spot. He never quite pulled the plug, though. And if Kaz Matsui was healthy now, Willie would be playing him despite better options.

Keith Woolner (10:45:58 AM PT): > it's pretty much him [Spahn], Grove and Clemens

Greg Maddux, Tom Seaver, and Randy Johnson say hi.

Steven Goldman (10:47:22 AM PT): Keith, I thought of you at our signing on Saturday. I was asked to explain and react to your win expectancy work.

...My life flashed before my eyes.

Steven Goldman (10:48:06 AM PT): No Walter Johnson?

Keith Woolner (10:48:50 AM PT): "but if you exclude guys who largely pitched before 1920"

Joe Sheehan (10:49:14 AM PT): Clemens/Maddux was pretty close until the last couple of seasons, but isn't any longer. I think he's still well ahead of RJ, too, so I left those two out. Obviously, an expanded list would include them.

Seaver...Seaver's interesting.

Jonah Keri (10:49:16 AM PT): "What's weird is that Randolph was one of the smarter players of his era, a great OBP guy and good defender."

Joe Morgan also says hi.

Steven Goldman (10:50:48 AM PT): One of the most fun moments for me that has come out of my association with BP is when Will Carroll came over one day and we watched footage of Walter Johnson. Will had never seen him pitch before. Will went into paroxysms of joy over Johnson's great mechanics, his perfect hip turn and follow-through. That was a privilege.

Joe Sheehan (10:51:27 AM PT): Kevin, should we be excited about Brian Bannister, or is this going to end badly?

Keith Woolner (10:51:42 AM PT): Conceptually, win expectancy is easy.

Look at every PA, look at the chance of winning before the PA and after the PA. The difference is win expectancy -- how much the batter changed the chance of winning. Same idea for pitching appearances.

It's the math behind it that's complicated.

Steven Goldman (10:54:18 AM PT): We got into a quantum mechanics area of win expectancy regarding the value of a David Ortiz late-inning HR vs. a A-Rod first-inning HR. The reader was arguing that the Ortiz HR has to be more valuable because it alters the win expectancy more dramatically. That's an oversimplification, I think. Win expectancy is showing the value of that Ortiz HR at that moment, but winning a ballgame can happen in many ways, many combination of moments.

Kevin Goldstein (10:54:23 AM PT): I don't think it's going to end badly at all. PECOTA thinks he'll have an ERA a little above 4.50 and a WHIP a tick over 1.4. That sure sounds right to me. I don't think he'll have a "pitching in New York" problem -- because of his father, the big league experience is nothing new to him. He's very much an 'is what he is' guy, though. He could be a solid 4th-5th guy for years, but I doubt much more.

Joe Sheehan (10:57:10 AM PT): Isn't WE a good way to fold the notion of "clutch" into performance discussions, because it covers "when" as well as "what"?

Keith Woolner (10:57:48 AM PT): Realistically, there's no debate. Clemens is head and shoulders above all post-1920 pitchers, including Grove.

But if Spahn is in the conversation, Big Unit, Maddux, and Seaver are right there with him, with Pedro Martinez not too far behind.

Kevin Goldstein -- Delivering a Non-Sequiter (10:58:22 AM PT): Blast from the past. I just got the Low A Peoria Chief roster via email. Their manager is Jody Davis, and their hitting coach is Barbaro Garbey. Sometimes the names I see on the field stuff excite me as much as the prospects.

Joe Sheehan (10:59:43 AM PT): BTW, Tony Womack is leading off today for the Reds.

Steven Goldman (11:00:47 AM PT): The Reds prove Darwin right.

Joe Sheehan (11:01:36 AM PT): Sparky Anderson thinks Barbaro Garbey has a chance to be the greatest hitting coach in MLB history.

Steven Goldman (11:02:27 AM PT): I said so many negative things about Womack last year that at three different events this spring, readers have come up to me and said, "Say something mean about Tony Womack." But it's not like that - he didn't stomp my cat or anything. He just can't play and I was pointing that out. As someone who has to watch these games, I get really bored watching guys ground out 4-3 on an 0-1 pitch.

Keith Woolner (11:02:37 AM PT): Joe's correct. WE (or, as I tend to abbreviate it, WX) does fold clutch into the measure of value.

The Ortiz late-game HR is more valuable than a first inning HR, *only* if the game is close. Hitting a 9th inning HR when you're up 12-1, or down 0-10, doesn't change the prob of winning that much. The *average* value of a 1st inning HR is comparable to the *average* 9th inning HR, but the variance of the late inning events is much higher, because the state of the game is known with much more certainty, and because there are fewer chances for future events to cancel out what's happening now.

Jonah Keri (11:02:40 AM PT): Steve, I expect a 4,000-word column on Womack. You owe it to your fans.

I'm regretting not picking the Reds last already.

Steven Goldman, Math Dunce (11:03:54 AM PT): That's what I was trying to tell the reader, though I didn't do it with nearly your elegance or clarity.

Steven Goldman, No Womack Zone (11:04:40 AM PT): I would rather have Boots Grantham than Tony Womack.

Joe Sheehan (11:06:16 AM PT): That is NOT a great play on the ball. An above-average shortstop turns two there, and an average SS gets one.

Steven Goldman (11:07:26 AM PT): Another thing I was trying to say, ineptly, about "clutch" and the idea that A-Rod is a hitter who only piles on with big leads - in most cases we know that only with the benefit of hindsight. Players don't hit HRs at will, which the theory that they can hit "only" in certain situations seems to suggest. Nor can A-Rod, or any other player, know when he hits a HR what affect that hit will have on the outcome of the game. It's only when it's in the books that we can say, "Oh, those runs weren't important."

Joe Sheehan (11:09:27 AM PT): At some point there, we're edging out of analysis and into mediocy. I like WX because it provides a framework for objectively evaluating this stuff, without starting from "Ortiz clutch, A-Rod not."

Keith, is it going to become a stat report?

Joe Sheehan (11:12:00 AM PT): The remote control opens its season...Cubs go triple/double to start the game, probably Womack's fault.

Steven Goldman, No Womack Zone (11:13:10 AM PT): I would rather have Shooty Babbit than Tony Womack.

Steven Goldman (11:15:17 AM PT): The Weighted Mean PECOTA for Lo Duca is .274./.328/.374. If he hits that, does that keep him in the #2 spot all year? Sadly, it probably does.

Joe Sheehan (11:16:38 AM PT): I'd rather have Raymond Babbitt.

Steven Goldman (11:18:48 AM PT): Or George Babbitt. Congratulate me lads, for I have made the first ever Sinclair Lewis reference on a baseball web site.

Joe Sheehan (11:19:28 AM PT): Anderson Hernandez is only projected for .266/.313/.372, but because he's a switch-hitter with speed, I'd rather have him than Lo Duca in the #2 hole. Lo Duca's a DP waiting to happen, at least on the odd occasion where Reyes is on first base.

The real solution here is Beltran. Just move everyone up a spot and drop Lo Duca to sixth.

Joe Sheehan (11:20:46 AM PT): Remind me to not try and one-up Goldman on references.

Kevin Goldstein (11:21:14 AM PT): Man, what I wouldn't give for a cool name like Duke Castiglione -- ESPN's on-the-field reporter. A scout just checked into to tell me that he still believes in Nady (who just rapped one down the LF line) will have a breakout year now that he's got a job and isn't getting jerked around. I'm not sure I agree, but I welcome all opinions.

Steven Goldman, Vexing Jonah Keri (11:23:14 AM PT): Sinclair Lewis's "It Can't Happen Here" is ripe for a comeback. A novel for our times. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Can%27t_Happen_Here) Hey, kids! Tell your mom you CAN learn stuff while reading comic books and baseball web sites!

Steven Goldman (11:24:28 AM PT): Kevin, we could call you "Flash" or "Voldemort" or something if it would make you feel good.

Joe Sheehan (11:25:23 AM PT): I've thought of him as a platoon player, but on the broadcast, Brantley (I think) said very similar things about him. He's definitely a looks-good-in-uniform guy.

Steven Goldman (11:26:08 AM PT): He's still not much of a return on the underappreciated Mike Cameron.

Keith Woolner (11:28:12 AM PT): I'd rather have Babette Harsant (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092603/)

Steven Goldman (11:31:09 AM PT): Babette always struck me as more of a 1B/DH type. For the middle infield, you really need a Jean Harrington (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033804/).

Keith Woolner (11:32:58 AM PT): All you can evaluate a player on is what was known at the time he performed, and what could be expected going forward. WX rewards or penalizes players based on the state for the game at the time, not retroactively.

Besides, a clutch situation late in a game represents a failure of either the offense, the defense, or both at some level. Score enough runs early on, and prevent the opponent from scoring, and then you never have to face a clutch situation late.

Joe Sheehan (11:34:06 AM PT): You know they have no respect for your arm when they tag from first to second on you. Ken Griffey Jr. and his dad's legs just did that to Juan Pierre on a ball that didn't even reach the warning track.

Kevin Voldemort Goldstein (11:34:35 AM PT): Nope, doesn't work. Did Tom Glavine just leg out an infield single?

Keith Woolner (11:37:34 AM PT): WX will be available on the stat reports, but we're running a little behind on getting the new sortable stats up and running, so it might be a few extra days before we get everything smoothed out.

I am psyched about what we've got coming on the stats though -- with play-byplay data going back to 1960, we've got WX, VORP, SNVA, and the like spanning over 45 years of MLB. You'll also be able to design custom stat reports, with just the stats you want to see, in the order you want to see them, and you'll be able to save/bookmark them for quick reference later on. BP Fantasy's Team Tracker is also getting some improvements, including the ability to look back at the stats for any number of days beforehand, rather tham just the predefined handful of time periods we offered last year.

But this is supposed to be a roundtable, not a commercial...

Jonah Keri (11:41:23 AM PT): Joe, I know you're really high on the Mets this year. In the meantime I've said to everyone who's asked that their moves on the margins--shipping out the Seos and Bensons for 55 cents on the dollar--are going to make the difference and drop them to 3rd. Do the Mets have enough front-line talent to get them over the Braves and Phillies, even if they have a questionable rotation and several notable holes?

Steven Goldman (11:41:47 AM PT): I think "Bucky" Goldstein has a certain ring to it, Kevin.

Three walks through five drawn by the Nats. Somehow I don't see them doing that too often. Maybe Nick Johnson by himself, but not the rest of 'em.

Steven Goldman (11:43:55 AM PT): "Darrin Oliver is up in the pen."

Joe Sheehan (11:45:10 AM PT): This is weird to me...the Orioles signed Ramon Hernandez to a four-year, $26-million deal this winter...and he's batting ninth.

Against a lefty, no less.

Joe Sheehan (11:47:59 AM PT): Jonah, the short answer is, "no." I think the big moves that Omar Minaya has made over 17 months, Beltran and Delgado and what have you, have been very good. But the marginal decisions, the dumping of the SPs, the roster construction questions, have been bad.

I picked the Mets for third, 84-78. We actually agree on this one.

Joe Sheehan (11:48:53 AM PT): That's a different Darren Oliver, right? Like the way there were two Steve Ontiveroses?

Steven Goldman (11:50:04 AM PT): Seems to me that the Mets, Phillies, Braves are all very close to each other. It should come down to injuries, late acquisitions, and other unexpected developments. Say Jeff Francoeur picks up where he left off last year. That's the Braves in trouble right there.

Kevin Goldstein (11:51:58 AM PT): I agree -- and I think the Mets will make moves to put them over the top. This just in -- David Wright is kinda good.

Jonah Keri (11:52:26 AM PT): Unless this is along the lines of the two Juan Gonzalezes scenario, it's not going to end well anyway. Seriously, I can't think of any other duplicate name guys playing at the same time where one was a lot better than the other. The marker for this is when someone calls out Alex Gonzalez at the draft table and no one bothers to ask "which one?"

Jonah Keri (11:54:24 AM PT): I have the Phillies winning it. Assumign Madson sees his share of starts and Howard plays the whole season, that alone will be worth a few wins. I have the Braves falling just short right now, and see them and not the Mets as the bigger threat to Philly.

Joe Sheehan (11:55:11 AM PT): I'll assume you mean "Luis Gonzalez," Jonah?

I'm kicking myself for leaving David Wright off of my preseason MVP ballot. That's just straight stupid.

Steven Goldman (11:56:10 AM PT): I've had my doubts about the Phillies rotation, but it looks a lot better now that Ryan Franklin's not in it.

Joe Sheehan (11:57:06 AM PT): Between the shaky bullpen and the susceptibility of that lineup to lefty relievers, I think the Phillies will lose a lot of games in the late innings and fall short of the Braves. And I'm the only guy in the world who'd rather see Madson in the pen. The Phils are very shaky from the sixth through the eigth, and I think the leverage of the innings he can give them would outweigh the volume he'll get as a starter.

Keith Woolner (11:57:15 AM PT): > I can't think of any other duplicate name guys playing at the same time where one was a lot better than the other

Pedro J. Martinez and Pedro A. Martinez

Kevin Goldstein (12:00:10 PM PT): Does The Philly rotation look better with Gavin Floyd? I don't know the answer to that one myself.

Steven Goldman (12:02:43 PM PT): Ironic that Tod Walker drove in the first run for the Cubs today, after all the talk of not wanting him.

Steven Goldman (12:05:30 PM PT): Apropos of nothing, I keep imagining Neil Young singing Depeche Mode songs. Which got me thinking about what percentage of Goths attend baseball games.

Steven Goldman (12:08:01 PM PT): Brandon Watson's godfather is Eric Davis.

Eric Davis's godfather is...

Jonah Keri (12:08:22 PM PT): No I meant Juan Gonzalez, as in the quasi-prospect MI in the Carlos Guillen trade. Luis Gonzalez was the obvious one, though. So maybe it's just that 67% of same-name Gonzalez tandems have a big split.

Still laughing about that Ryan Franklin comment...

Jonah Keri (12:13:26 PM PT): Off topic, but having been away for the weekend, I just saw that Jose Contreras signed a 3-year, $29 million deal. That Contreras-Loaiza deal from a couple years ago looks bizarre on so many levels, now, given what both did, didn't do, and are now doing again.

Joe Sheehan (12:13:42 PM PT): Rangers' infield: would they or would they not be instantly better if they flipped Young and Kinsler?

Kevin Goldstein (12:14:57 PM PT): I'm blaming Nick Johnson's inability to come through in the clutch there to his mustache, which makes him strangely look like Joey Meyer.

Steven Goldman (12:17:20 PM PT): I can't say I know Nick Johnson well, but the couple of times I spoke with him, he struck me as kind of a passive personality - which I associate with "not clutch," though that's totally unfair. It's just an impression.

SI suggested just that Kinsler/Young switch in the baseball preview issue - which was replete with references to BP and PECOTA.

Joe Sheehan (12:18:34 PM PT): I always thought it was more like he borrowed Bruno Kirby's mustache.

Joe Sheehan (12:24:08 PM PT): The entire baseball season should be like this, with games scattered throughout the day, a manageable number on at any one time.

In two weeks, we'll have eight games starting at 4 p.m. PT, another four at 5 p.m. PT, and it'll be much harder to track.

I'd like to find the printed schedules for years ago. I can remember when night games were at 8 p.m. local (at least Yankee games), and I'm genuinely curious as to how schedules were structured 20, 40, 80 years ago. Particularly the latter...were there multiple days off in a row when teams went to St. Louis or something?

No, this has nothing to do with the Mets and Nationals.

Nate Silver (12:26:06 PM PT): Can I get an over/under on Texas Rangers runs allowed this season? Is that Corey Feldman warming up in the bullpen? 1,100? I'll take the over.

Steven Goldman (12:27:11 PM PT): What was kind of neat about the real old schedules was how many doubleheaders there were both because of travel limitations and the lack of domes leading to more rainouts. We were talking earlier about how neat it would be to have the odd holiday DH, but back in those days you could have three in a week. If you look at some of the older pennant races, you had these huge swings in the standings because a team would play seven games in four days in September.

Steven Goldman, Showalter Doubter (12:29:03 PM PT): Wait a second - Phil Nevin is batting CLEANUP for the Rangers?

Ben Murphy (sitting in the corner) (12:31:54 PM PT): Yeah, and Wilkerson's in LF (Nix in CF). If we're talking about potential positional swaps in Texas, you have to add that to the list with MYoung/IKinsler.

Steven Goldman (12:33:35 PM PT): Mmm. Swapping.

Joe Sheehan (12:34:59 PM PT): Save that for the night chat, Goldman.

Joe Sheehan (12:37:41 PM PT): Is anyone going to mention how Soriano loped into second?

Kevin Goldstein (12:37:41 PM PT): In the meantime, this game has gotten EXCELLENT. Great play on the rebound by Floyd, great relay by Reyes, great tag by Loduca, and Mets stay ahead (for now).

Ben Murphy (12:38:30 PM PT): We could make a nice list of these, of course, but I saw Soriano live last Friday (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=260331120) and he looked even worse than I expected.

In a game that was much more entertaining than you'd expect an O's Nats match to be, the real hilarity ensued when Orioles "LF" Jeff Conine dropped a ball that hit his glove in left and the scorer didn't call it an error.

Ben Murphy (12:39:05 PM PT): Might have been something in the air that night, though, as Zimmerman also made a few mistakes. It was like each guy was trying to make a more comical mistake than the previous one.

Steven Goldman (12:45:37 PM PT): Ben came to our DC event but then refused to speak to the crowd. It was like one of those old Bob Dylan concerts where he played the whole show with his back to the audience. All those people who had come out for just a glimpse, a word, from Ben Murphy, but he held out on them.

Ben Murphy (12:46:25 PM PT): Hey! I was there to answer technical questions. And then you got stuck in Win Expectancy and didn't defer? As you said in your manager's stuff, that's a usage problem :-)

Steven Goldman (12:47:53 PM PT): You were tied up with your entourage. Ben travels with a posse of gangsta rappers. Very intimidating to a guy from the suburbs like me.

Ben Murphy (12:49:30 PM PT): You know how I roll. It was still fun. I think I might always be more of a fan than not. Which is to say, I like to listen to you babble incoherently and talk about clutchness.

Steven Goldman (12:52:43 PM PT): Someday I may surprise everyone and come to one of these things with some written remarks rather than ad libbing stuff about what the gifts of the PECOTA Fairy.

...So much for Matt LeCroy, lefty smasher.

Steven Goldman (12:55:19 PM PT): And the Mets win thanks to two baserunning errors by the Nats. Thanks for the fun chattiness, everyone.

Kevin Goldstein (12:55:59 PM PT): I guess Jose Video (just nailed at 2nd for final out) wanted to get in the locker room for the big Royals/Tigers game -- only 8 minutes away!


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