Opening Day is fast approaching, and the Nationals’ final roster is beginning to take shape. Tonight against the Houston Astros, the Nationals trotted out a lineup what would not seem out of place in the regular season:
You can quibble with that batting order, especially with Harper’s place in the fifth spot. But all eight men on the lineup project to be regulars, and between that and the 6:05 start, tonight’s game felt almost like a regular season contest. The Nationals ended up being shutout by Jarred Cosart and the Astros, falling by a score of 2-0. Here now is the good, the bad, and the ugly of tonight’s game.
— Two days ago, manager Matt Williams announced that Ross Detwiler would not be considered for the fifth spot in the rotation. Instead, that spot would be filled in an open competition between, Tanner Roark, Chris Young, and Taylor Jordan. Roark got the first crack at making a positive impression after the announcement, allowing only two hits in seven innings in a minor league game. But tonight, Jordan was equally as impressive. In 5 innings, he allowed just one earned run on 3 hits. He walked just one, and induced an impressive 9 fly ball outs. And he struck out five, flashing a very impressive changeup:
— In his first appearance since being banished to the bullpen, Ross Detwiler seemed to have put the hard feelings of the past two days behind him. He breezed through his inning of work, throwing 18 pitches and allowing just a walk. His fastball hit 94 MPH on the radar gun, and he also flashed a quality breaking ball, both skills that Matt Williams believes will make him a weapon out of the ‘pen:
— The Nationals’ likely Opening Day lineup did not exactly perform up to expectations tonight. Rookie Houston starter Jarred Cosart effortly sliced through the order, making experienced major league veterans like Denard Span, Jayson Werth, and Bryce Harper look foolish. He struck out nine batters in five perfect innings, allowing just two balls out of the infield. In fact, the Nationals wouldn’t get their first hit until the sixth inning, when Anthony Rendon snuck a ground ball just past the diving Jonathan Singleton into right field:
— Tyler Clippard had his first poor outing of the spring — he allowed his first run in Grapefruit League action, on a Jesus Guzman home run, in his sixth inning of work. But the ugliest part of of Clippard’s outing was this fastball, which got away from him and made a beeline for the left hand of Astros’ top prospect Carlos Correa:
One can only hope that Correa, who hit .320 at Class-A Quad Cities as an 18-year old and is number 5 on Baseball America’s list of baseball’s top prospects, managed to escape injury. And the early news is promising:
But if Correa, an otherworldly talent who could someday become the face of this franchise, were to be seriously injured during a meaningless Spring Training game, well that would truly be ugly.
The Nationals stay home tomorrow to face the Detroit Tigers for the third time in five games. Max Scherzer will get the start for Detroit; the Nationals have not yet announced a starter. The 1:05 game will not be televised, but can be heard on 1580 AM or MLB.com.