The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Spring Training Games 14-15 (Nats @ Braves, Nats @ Astros)

Split squad days are often the most grueling days of the interminable grind that is Spring Training — with two games in one day, teams often have to stretch their roster thin, meaning two games filled with minor-leaguers, also-rans, and shoddy baseball.  The Nationals had their second such day of the spring, with the “A” squad (featuring several major league starters) heading to Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando to take on the Atlanta Braves.  Meanwhile, another squad, comprised of bench players and prospects, headed to Osceola County Stadium to play the Houston Astros.  The games (especially the latter game) were, as expected, sloppily played, with the Nationals losing both games on walk-off singles, 3-2 against the Braves and 10-9 against the Astros.  Here now is a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the day.

THE GOOD

— The Nationals received some strong performances from their relievers in Orlando.  After starter Chris Young exited after allowing two runs in three innings, prospect Danny Rosenbaum came on to throw a scoreless fourth and fifth, allowing two hits and walking one while striking out right fielder Mark Hamilton.  Clay Hensley followed Rosenbaum with a hitless sixth, and Josh Roenicke kept the line moving with a perfect eighth.  Luis Ayala pitched the eighth, and continued to state his case for making the Opening Day bullpen, allowing just an infield single.  The final line for those four pitchers: 5 innings pitched, 3 hits, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts, and no earned runs.

Denard Span continued his strong spring with a 2-3 performance today, singling in the third and tripling in the fifth.  He raised his batting average in Grapefruit League play to .429 — 9 hits in 21 at bats.  Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper added hits in the game, each posting 1-3 lines on the day.

— There were also several standout offensive performances in the game at Kissimmee.  Will Rhymes, who is attempting to keep his name in the discussion for the Nats’ utility infield spot, put together three hits in five at bats, including a two RBI single in the fourth.  Jamey Carroll, in a similar situation as Rhymes, went 2-4.  Scott Hairston, who only had two hits in the spring entering today’s game, managed two today in two at bats.  And Nate McLouth lifted his first home run of the spring season, a two-run shot off left-hander Darin Downs.

mclouth hr 1

THE BAD

Tanner Roark’s final line today isn’t pretty — three runs on three hits in 3 1/3 innings, with three strikeouts, two walks, and a long home run allowed to catcher Jason Castro.  Roark struggled with command, but was also victimized by windy conditions that allowed lazy fly balls to become doubles in the gap.  Roark himself noted the conditions:

The outing didn’t look good on paper, but many of the factors involved in the poor outing were beyond Roark’s control.

THE UGLY

Xavier Cedeno came on to protect a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, and managed to get the first two outs of the inning without incident.  He then proceeded to allow a single to Jesus Guzman, a single to Delino DeShields, Jr. which scored Guzman, a double to Marwin Gonzalez which scored DeShields, and a single to George Springer, allowing Gonzalez to score.  Just like that, a 9-7 Nationals’ victory became a 10-9 defeat, with Cedeno taking the blown save and loss.   Before this disastrous appearance, Cedeno had not allowed a run in 5 IP thus far in spring.

The conditions were as much a factor today in Kissimmee as any player on either team.  After an hour-long rain delayed the start of the game, the wind gusted throughout, making routine pop-ups anything but.  In the second inning, Tyler Moore hit a pop-up that started on the third base line, then seemingly took a right turn and headed for the middle of the diamond.  Shortstop Jonathan Villar pursued, but the ball ended up eluding him, leaving us with this .GIF:

villar dropsThis wind affected the Nationals and Astros equally — just watch Mike Fontenot try to catch this Dexter Fowler pop up:

fontenot

This game was often brutal to watch.

Just one game tomorrow, as the Nationals head back to Space Coast Stadium to take on the New York Mets.  The game starts at 1:05, but doesn’t appear to be on either television or radio, so have your MLB At Bat apps handy to follow along.

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