Yunesky Maya is an acquired taste: after a rocky first inning (in which Mets’ first baseman Ike Davis hit one of the longest home runs in the short history of Nationals’ Park), the highly touted Cuban righthander settled down and pitched steadily through the 5th. But (as nearly every print journalist — and Jim Riggleman), said after the Nats lost 4-1 to the Mets, it was too late. Maya gave up three runs in the first and one in the second, and Mets rookie righty Dillon Gee shut down the Nats, pitching a no-hitter until Willie Harris put a dinger into the right field seats. “I gave up four runs. I just wanted to hold them there to give the team a chance to win the game,” Maya said after his first outing in a Nats’ uniform. “I didn’t want them to score any more runs on me. I just felt more comfortable [after] that first inning. I was hitting my spots. When I do well, that’s what I do. I’m ahead of the hitters, and I can do what I want after that.”
Despite the shaky start (Maya admitted that he was nervous), Maya’s curve and smarts make him a contender for a spot in the Nats’ starting rotation in 2011. This is good news for Washington G.M. Mike Rizzo, who signed the Cuban veteran to a four year $6 million contract in July. The “book” on Maya is that, while he does not have overwhelming stuff, he is a smart veteran pitcher with enough experience to make an impact on the club — adding a much-needed savvy arm (to go with that of Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis) to a group of youngsters. And despite the early shakiness, Maya’s Nats’ teammates were impressed with what they saw. Maya’s steady start was the talk of the Nationals’ club house following the game — but the new Cuban finesse artist took a distinct second spot in the headlines to Mets’ rookie Dillon Gee.
Gee, a 27th round draft pick of the Mets in 2007, shut down the Nats — even though, like Maya, he did not have overpowering stuff. But Gee’s mix of pitches was enough to impress Nats’ reserve Willie Harris, whose command of Gee provided the modest Washington crowd with a sigh of relief. “The one thing I noticed was that he was pretty aggressive in the strike zone early,” Harris said following the game. “He was going fastball early, and then he was going to his breaking pitch. Once he started guys off with breaking pitches and got behind in the count, he would come after them with fastballs.” Gee’s arrival is good news for the Mets, who are in desperate need of starting pitching as they attempt to salvage something from a disappointing season. The addition of Gee could be just what the Mets front office ordered — the New Yorkers have few top-notch pitching prospects in their minor league system and have made puzzling mistakes in judging their mound talent (Oliver Perez) over the last several years. Gee, as he showed on Tuesday, is the welcome exception.
(above: AP photo of Yuniesky Maya; below, Dillon Gee, AP Photo/Evan Vucci)