PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) - Rick Ankiel's new batting stance is already paying dividends.
Ankiel hit his first spring homer and the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 3-1 on Monday.
``He's more relaxed,' Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. ``Last year he was a little tense, and he said that helped make his swing tighter, but I think he is swinging better so far in spring.'
Ankiel connected against Dillon Gee in the second inning. He also had a walk before he was replaced by Brett Carroll in the fifth inning.
Bryce Harper, Washington's top prospect, went 2 for 2 with a walk.
The top of the batting order accounted for the Mets' only run in the first inning. New leadoff batter Andres Torres walked, stole second and scored on Daniel Murphy's two-out single to center off John Lannan.
Torres, who also singled in the third, was acquired in a trade with San Francisco over the winter and will get the first crack at replacing Jose Reyes atop the Mets' batting order.
``Andres got on twice tonight, and as I've said before, when he gets on, he scores runs, and he did that tonight,' New York manager Terry Collins said.
Gee, a bit of a surprise last year with a 13-6 record as a rookie, allowed two hits, walked one and struck out one in two innings. The home run came on a 2-0 fastball, which Ankiel drove over the left-field wall.
``It's spring training so I'm not out there trying to trick guys,' Gee said. ``I'm out there to get myself feeling good about what's going on and not too focused on results. The home run to Ankiel, that's just part of it. My command and my action feel good. I was happy with my changeup, so that's all I'm looking for at this point.'
Lannan gave up three hits, struck out one and walked one in three innings. The left-hander is trying to earn a spot in the starting rotation, despite winning a career-high 10 games and posting a career-best 3.70 ERA in 33 starts last year.
After the quick start for the Mets' offense, Lannan benefited from a 4-6-3 double play to end the first inning. He retired the side in order in the second and stranded runners at first and second in his final inning.
``I felt good,' Lannan said. ``The first inning was a little tough, but I got into kind of a rhythm in the second and third, so I'm kind of happy with it.'
NOTES: Mets 3B David Wright is still day to day with soreness in his rib cage. . Mets 1B Ike Davis, who was suspected of contracting valley fever, played four innings in the field and was replaced after reaching on a single in the fourth. ... Mets backup OF Scott Hairston and 2B prospect Reese Havens, who are both nursing back injuries, received cortisone shots Monday.
The Associated Press News Service
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