The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Final Spring Training Game (Nats vs. Mets)

If this doesn’t get you excited, then I don’t know what will — the Nationals wrapped up their Spring Training schedule today against the Mets, and will soon be boarding a plane and heading back to Nationals Park.  It’s been a long offseason, but baseball is finally upon us once again.  As far as Spring Training contests go, today’s game was about as compelling as the rest; the Nationals were backed by quality pitching, took an early lead, and added on once the regulars were out of the game.  Here now, the good, the bad, and the ugly, from the final contest in Florida, a 4-0 Nationals victory.

THE GOOD

Jordan Zimmermann was dominant all spring long, and today’s start was no exception.  In five innings, Zimmermann made 71 pitches, struck out 3, allowed 4 hits, walked none, and did not allow a run.  In the first inning, he got into a jam, putting runners on second and third with one out. However, he escaped the jam by striking out Curtis Granderson with the help of a slider that Stephen Strasburg would do well to take notes on:

zimmermann slider granderson

Coming to bat with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the second, Zimmermann even helped his cause by legging out an RBI infield single.  His final line for the spring: 18 innings pitched, 11 hit, 1 earned run, 1 walk, and 15 strikeouts.  He’ll make his first start of the regular season against these Mets a week from today.

— Plenty of Nats bats finished Spring Training in fine fashion.  Denard Span went 3-5 with a run scored, raising his average for the spring to a remarkable .370.  Bryce Harper went 2-4 with two singles, including this lined shot for an RBI, which flew over pitcher Jeurys Familia’s head at 107 MPH (according to the notoriously unreliable stadium gun):

harper linerDanny Espinosa went 2-3 with a double and a walk, while Kevin Frandsen lined a double to left in his Nationals’ debut.

— Three players who figure to be key members of the Nationals’ bullpen — Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard, and Drew Storen — all closed their springs on a positive note.  Each allowed a hit in a scoreless inning, but combined for five strikeouts on the day, including two apiece by Clippard and Soriano.  Soriano was put in a jam thanks to an error by Anthony Rendon, but escaped by striking out Granderson looking on a slider.

Jerry Blevins was even more dominant, allowing just an infield single while striking out the side to close out the Grapefruit League season.  For the spring, Blevins gave up only three hits and a run in 9.1 innings, with 11 strikeouts to 3 walks.

THE BAD

— Harper may have been good with the bat today, but he struggled on the basepaths in the sixth inning. Against Mets’ lefthander Scott Rice, Harper rocketed a line drive to the wall in left, but jogged out of the box and was held to a single.  Then, Harper went first move on Rice, but Rice threw over, and Harper was thrown out.

THE UGLY

— Anthony Rendon left five on base in the game, going 0-5 and dropping his spring batting average from an impressive .325 to a still-healthy .289.

The Nationals finish up Grapefruit League play with a 15-13 record (not that it really matters).  They head back to Nationals Park on Saturday for one exhibition game against the Tigers; Tanner Roark will get the start, while Taylor Jordan will enter in relief.  Then, it’s off to Citi Field for Opeining Day against Dillon Gee and the Mets; the game starts at 1:10 PM.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Nats vs. Cardinals, 3/26/14 (Spring Training)

Seeing as there are no real stakes and the games are essentially meaningless, spring-training contests are generally pretty uneventful. Most veteran players go about their business, doing so without the passion that comes when the games that matter begin. But in today’s Spring Training game between the Nationals and Cardinals, the second-to-last on the Grapefruit League docket for the Nats, we got a little action, courtesy of the always passionate Bryce Harper. Here now is the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Nationals’ 3-2 loss.

THE GOOD

Gio Gonzalez’s final spring outing of 2014 was solid if unspectacular; he struck out four in five innings of work, allowing seven hits and three runs (just one of them earned). Gonzalez was victimized by some poor defense behind him, including a passed ball and a botched double play, but also struggled to put innings away, allowing two two-out RBI singles to Yadier Molina. Gonzalez finishes with a 2.94 ERA in 18.1 spring innings; he made 81 pitches in today’s game, setting himself up nicely for his first start of the regular season.

Ross Detwiler threw a 1-2-3 sixth inning, throwing 12 pitches and striking out the left-handed hitting John Jay on a good curveball. In four relief innings this spring, Detwiler allowed three runs (all in one outing) on three hits, walking three and striking out two.

— A day after finding out he had made the Opening Day roster, Aaron Barrett demonstrated exactly why the Nationals had so much faith in him.  The 26 year old righty put together another 1-2-3 frame, inducing two groundouts and a strikeout, while showcasing the slider considered to be the best in the organization by Baseball America:

barrett sliderIn 10.2 scoreless innings this spring, Barrett has given up just five hits, walked none, and struck out eight.

THE BAD

The Nationals’ offense once again seemed unable to figure out Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright. Wainwright went five innings today, allowing just one hit (a third inning single by Anthony Rendon), walking none, and striking out six. Wainwright has now thrown 14 scoreless innings against the Nats this spring, and went 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings against the team last year.

THE UGLY

— Leading off the top of the fourth inning, Bryce Harper hit a slow roller past Wainwright and towards the right side of the infield.  In one motion, second baseman Mark Ellis barehanded the ball, and flipped it to first, just in time to get Harper in the estimation of first base umpire Jeff Gosney.

harper ejected 2Harper was frustrated, either with the call or the fact that he had made an out.

harper ejected 4We won’t be sure exactly what Harper said until he tells us, but whatever it was, it caused Gosney to toss Harper from the game.  Because the games are meaningless, Spring Training ejections are fairly rare; I can only find only one other example of a player being ejected this spring.  At any rate, Harper not only had to leave the game, he had to leave the stadium as well:

harper ejectedThroughout his career, Harper has been given far less leeway to make mistakes than the average player due to the hype and reputation surrounding him — this ejection seems like another example of that fact.

The Nationals have just one more game in Florida; tomorrow, they head to Port St. Lucie to face the New York Mets.  Jordan Zimmermann will get the start for the Nats in the 12:10 contest, which will be televised on ESPN and MLB.tv.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — Nats vs. Mets, 3/25/14 (Spring Training)

Editor’s note: We haven’t covered the last couple Spring Training games — frankly, after watching games that count in Australia, it’s kind’ve hard to get excited about the meaningless contests going on in Florida.  But we will have full recaps of the final three exhibition games, along with plenty of other great content leading up to Opening Day.

Today marked the final time the Washington Nationals will take the field at Space Coast Stadium, a welcome fact for players and fans who are ready to see their team leave Viera and head north for the regular season.  The contest against the Mets (the Nationals’ opponents on Opening Day) also marked the final Spring Training tuneup for Nationals’ ace and Opening Day starter Stephen Strasburg; Strasburg was backed by a lineup that featured Jose Lobaton in place of Wilson Ramos, but otherwise contained all regulars.  The Nationals, on the backs of a 5-run third inning, took down the Mets by a score of 6-3.  Here now, the good, the bad, and the ugly from the game.

THE GOOD

— In 2013, Bryce Harper had a mammoth spring — .484/.507/.734 — that he then followed up with a .344/.430/.720 April.  This spring, however, had been a different story, as Harper had gone just 8 for 36 with two extra-base hits.  But if there was any doubt that Harper was fully healthy and ready for Opening Day, he erased it today with this mammoth blast:

harper homerThat 3-run home run was Harper’s only hit on the day, though he added a walk in the sixth.  But Harper’s shot — a 420-footer to the opposite field, off the flagpole in left-center — is a good indication that Harper will be just fine in the regular season.

Denard Span continued a hot spring with a near-perfect day today.  He dropped a bloop single over second in the first, lined an infield single to second in the third, walked in the fourth, and singled again in the fifth.  Matt Williams seems intent on using Span in the leadoff spot, and the key function of a leadoff man is to get on base.  Span’s 3-4 performance today, and his .347/.360/.449 spring triple-slash — have shown he has the ability to do just that (though the fact that he has only one walk is odd indeed).

— The best thing about Stephen Strasburg’s outing is that it was his last of the spring — the next time we will see him, it will be on March 31st at Citi Field.  The second best thing about the outing was Strasburg’s pitch count — 84 over 5 2/3 innings, meaning Strasburg will likely be able to near 100 pitches on Opening Day.  And the third-best thing about Strasburg’s outing was how successful it was.  In those 5 2/3 innings, Strasburg struck out seven.  He had one poor inning — the Mets’ three-run third — but otherwise dominated.  All four of his pitches looked strong, including his brand-new slider:

strasburg slider strikeoutHe even added a base hit for good measure.  See you Monday, Mr. Strasburg.

Ryan Zimmerman seems to always find his swing in Spring Training, and this year is no exception.  Today, he went 2-4 with three RBIs, including a two-run single and this solo home run:

zimmerman home runThe homer was Zimmerman’s second of the spring, and it raised his batting average to .325.  He has also looked strong on defense, including on this play, where he ranged far to the right of second base on a shift.

THE BAD

— The Mets put together a three-run inning off Strasburg in the third, including a Travis d’Arnaud home run and an Eric Young RBI triple.  During the inning, Strasburg appeared to be squeezed by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstadt.  In the at-bat against d’Arnaud, Strasburg fired a 1-2 fastball that appeared to catch the outside corner, but was called a ball by Wendelstadt — the very next pitch was d’Arnaud’s home run.  There have been times throughout his career — this game against the Cubs comes to mind — when Strasburg has let someone else’s mistake derail his outing.  Today, however, Strasburg regained his composure, pitching several more strong innings after the third.

THE UGLY

— Spring Training camera angles are notoriously shoddy, and on this day, it meant that that we couldn’t see on television exactly where Harper’s homer landed.  Other than that, not too much ugly on the day.

The Nationals have two more games left to play in the Grapefruit League.  Tomorrow, they head to Jupiter to play the Cardinals, while tomorrow, they once again head to Port St. Lucie to play the Mets.  Wednesday’s game will be at 1:05, while Thursday’s will be a 12:10 start — both games will be televised on ESPN.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Spring Training Game 22 (Tigers vs. Nats)

Today, we at Serious Jammage were faced with a difficult decision.  Do we listen to a meaningless Nationals game out of obligation to chronicle the good, the bad, and the ugly of every single Spring Training contest?  Or, do we do what everyone else is doing today — skip work to watch Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament?  Well, luckily, we found a compromise; we put Charlie Slowes and Dave Jaegler on the radio, while watching the Battle for Ohio’s Soul™ on television.

For the second time in two days, the Nationals sent out a lineup that roughly resembled the one they will have on Opening Day, this time with newly anointed Opening Day starter Stephen Strasburg on the mound.  They played host to the Detroit Tigers, who countered with reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.  Strasburg looked superb, while the Nationals managed to get to Scherzer — here is the good, the bad, and the ugly from today’s 8-1 Nationals’ win.

THE GOOD

— Coming off of offseason arm surgery, Stephen Strasburg has done everything in his power this spring to quiet questions about his health.  In his longest outing thus far, Strasburg pitched five superb innings, making just 66 pitches.  He allowed just three hits, walked one, induced two double plays, and faced just two over the minimum.  He struck out five in the outing, with a strong curveball and a fastball that sat at 92-95, just a tick below his 2013 average.  Strasburg likely has just one Spring Training start remaining before he toes the rubber at Citi Field on March 31st for Opening Day.

— After a hot start, Ian Desmond has struggled in the latter part of the spring, failing to get a hit in four of his last five starts.  But today, he took an 0-2 hanging curveball from Scherzer and deposited it over the fence, onto the grassy berm in left-center field.  The home run was Desmond’s third of the spring, and his fifth extra-base hit.  He would go 1-3 on the day.

— Lots of strong offensive performances today.  Jayson Werth went 2-3 with a first inning double, and now has 7 hits in 21 spring at-bats.  Jose Lobaton broke an 0-18 skid by going 2 for 2 with a double and a team-high 3 RBIs.  Ryan Zimmerman also added an RBI triple to right, his fourth RBI of the spring.

Jerry Blevins closed the game with a 1-2-3 inning.  But more importantly, his Dayton Flyers defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes, with Vee Sanford hitting a runner with 3 seconds remaining to give the team a 60-59 lead it would not relinquish.  From Mark Zuckerman:

Perhaps most importantly, as of press time, your humble scribe’s bracket is still perfect, as he had Dayton pulling off the upset.

THE BAD

Drew Storen’s spring will do little to silence those who say his disastrous 2013 was more than a fluke.  He gave up another run today in an inning of work, allowing two hits and a walk.  In 5 innings in Grapefruit League play, Storen has now allowed 7 hits and 4 runs, obviously not the performance he or the Nationals were looking for.

THE UGLY

— Not that it matters a great deal, but Bryce Harper has not looked very good this spring.  His 0-3, 2 strikeout performance today left him with a .167 spring batting average (5-30) with just one extra-base hit.  So why is Harper stuggling?  Matt Williams thinks he has the answer:

As long as the knee is healthy, this is likely no cause for concern.

The Nationals head to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida tomorrow to take on the St. Louis Cardinals.  In a rematch of both games 1 and 5 of the 2012 NLDS, Adam Wainwright will face off against Gio Gonzalez.  The 1:05 start will be televised on Fox Sports Midwest and MLB.tv.

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Spring Training Game 21 (Astros vs. Nats)

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.

THE GOOD

— 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:

taylor jordan k 1If Jordan can keep it up, his sterling spring (which includes 18 strikeouts in 15 innings) may end with him in New York come Opening Day.

— 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:

detwiler curve k

THE BAD

 

— 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:

rendon single first hitThe Nationals would manage four more hits in the game, but would fail to score.

THE UGLY

— 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:
correa broken handOne 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.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly: Spring Training Game 20 (Nats @ Astros)

In the road game of today’s split-squad doubleheader, Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals traveled to Osceola County Stadium to face Scott Feldman and the Houston Astros. While the regulars stayed back in Vierra to face the Tigers, the Nationals back ups and minor leaguers (with the exception of Anthony Rendon) went up against Bo Porter’s squad. The Nationals defeated the Astros 4-3. Here are the Good, Bad, and Ugly from today’s game.

GOOD

Just like his last outing against the Astros, Gio Gonzalez started off strong. The only difference was that in today’s game, Gio didn’t implode. In his first two innings, Gonzalez was on top of his game, striking out two without allowing a runner. After allowing a single to 6-4 315 pound Japhet Amador to start the third, the batter was quickly erased on a 5-4-3 double play. After retiring the side in the fourth, Gio started to struggle, giving up a run with two outs on a L.J. Hoes single. Hoes would be the last batter Gio would face, as he was removed after going 4.2 innings, striking out 4, and only allowing one run on three hits.

Steven Souza Jr. had the game of his career today, going a perfect 3-3 with two home runs and an RBI triple. Souza’s first home run put the Nationals on the board, hitting a solo shot to deep left field off of former Baltimore Oriole Scott Feldman. His second homer also came off of Feldman, but this one was hit straight to center field. Then, in the top of the seventh, Souza hit a triple down the right field line to score Brock Peterson from first.

Both Brock Peterson and Brian Goodwin checked into today’s game with a pair of hits. Goodwin drove in a run with an RBI single in the top of the fifth, while Peterson scored a crucial run in the seventh inning on the Steven Souza triple.

Manny Delcarmen was able to bounce back from his bad performance against the Mets on Thursday, going two scoreless innings and recording a save in today’s contest.

BAD

Rafael Soriano and Christian Garcia had almost identical mediocre pitching lines in today’s game. Soriano, who was able to bail Gio Gonzalez out of a jam in the fifth, struggled in the sixth, giving up one run on two hits with two strikeouts before being removed with two outs left in the innings in favor of Garcia. Similarly to Soriano, Garcia successfully got the previous pitcher out of a pickle, getting Matt Dominguez to fly out with a runner on third. After retiring the first two batters in the seventh, Garcia gave up back to back doubles to uber-prospects Carlos Correa and Jonathan Singleton, which gave up a run. Garcia finished the day going 1.1 innings with one strikeout and two hits.

UGLY

The Nationals offense had a lot of missed opportunities to add on runs today, all starting in the top of the first. With runners on first and second and only one out, Tyler Moore and Zach Walters were unable to give the Nationals their first lead of the game, grounding out and striking out respectively. Then, in the second inning, Danny Espinosa came up with runners on first and third and two outs, and grounded out to third. In the third inning, Zach Walters (who ended up going 0-5 in today’s game) wasted a runner on second with only one out by grounding into a fielders choice. In total, the Nationals were an atrocious 2-10 with runners in scoring position in today’s game.

The Nationals face the Tigers again tomorrow at 1 PM, this time at Joker Marchant Stadium. Tanner Roark takes the mound for the Nationals against Anibal Sanchez. This game can be heard through the Tigers broadcast, either on MLB.com or on the MLB At Bat app. 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Spring Training Game 19 (Tigers vs. Nats)

Yesterday, we at Serious Jammage took the day off in order to soak up the beautiful DC weather, which finally felt more like spring than winter.  Today, the weather was miserable once again, so we’re back in action.  At any rate, the Nationals had a split-squad day, keeping the starters at Space Coast Stadium in Viera (where the weather is seemingly always beautiful) to play the Tigers, and sending the reserves to Kissimmee to play the Astros.  Here now is the good, the bad, and the ugly from the 2-1 loss to the Tigers.

THE GOOD

Jordan Zimmermann struggled with command in the first inning, but recovered well to put togather a fourth consecutive strong start.  In that first inning, Zimmermann gave up a leadoff single to Rajai Davis, then hit Ian Kinsler with a fastball that ran too far inside.  Davis and Kinsler managed a double steal, and Davis came around to score on a Don Kelly groundout.  But Zimmermann was near-flawless over the next three innings, allowing just three hits and a walk.  He struck out three, including a called strikeout of Rajai Davis, whom he caught looking at a slider away:

zimmermann k 2 2-16The run Zimmermann gave up was his first of the spring — in 13 innings, he has struck out 12, walked one, and given up just that one run.

Ryan Zimmerman played seven innings today, including the first two innings he has played at first base in his professional career.  He moved to first in the sixth, and almost immediately got his first chance at the not-so-hot corner:

zimmerman debut firstAs you can see, Zimmerman looked to second to turn a double play, but bobbled the ball, and had to settle for the one out.  This was the only ball hit to Zimmerman in his two innings at first, though he managed to record four additional putouts.  He also went 1-3 with a double at the plate.

— At age 25, southpaw Sammy Solis is trying to prove he is ready to make a big league roster.  The 2010 second round pick, who suffered a career setback when he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012, made just his second appearance of the spring today, after being held out with back spasms.  Solis threw two hitless innings, and while he didn’t strike anyone out, he managed four groundball outs of the six he recorded.  Solis’ fastball hit 93 MPH on the radar gun (which seemed to be running a little slow), and seems poised to insinuate himself into the conversation for a spot in the Nationals’ bullpen.

THE BAD

— With the wind blowing in, and with two upper-echelon starters in Zimmermann and Justin Verlander on the mound, the odds were stacked against offense today.  The Tigers managed just two runs on seven hits in the game, and it was even worse for the Nationals.  Against Verlander, the Nationals were held hitless for the first four innings, with Verlander striking out three and looking dominant.  With two out in the fifth, the Nationals finally managed to break through against Verlander, with Adam LaRoche lining a 1-0 fastball to center:

laroche singleIt didn’t get too much better after Verlander left — the Nationals managed to manufacture a run without a hit in the seventh, but managed just a Ryan Zimmerman double and a Jhonatan Solano single in the final four frames.

THE UGLY

— The Nationals have been quite aggressive on the basepaths thus far this spring, and they got a taste of their own medicine today.  Against starting catcher Jose Lobaton (who threw out only 14% of base stealers with the Rays last year), the Tigers stole three bases, including the double steal by Davis and Kinsler that set up the Tigers’ first run.  Then in the eighth, Lobaton’s replacement Jhonatan Solano allowed three more steals, including two to ertswile Nat Steve Lombardozzi, who stole second and third, scoring the game-winning run on a Danny Worth double.  The Nationals have struggled with holding baserunners in the past — they threw out just 17% of base stealers last year, well below the league average of 28%.  It’s only Spring Training, but if this continues to be a problem, it will be a frustrating one indeed.