The Nats came to play today with seven of their projected regular season starters in the starting lineup. The experience showed early as the Nats put six on the board in the bottom of the first. Denard Span started the inning with a single to right. Ian Desmond followed with a double sending Span to third. After a Jayson Werth pop up, Astros’ starter Brett Oberholtzer threw a wild pitch scoring Span. Bryce Harper then homered to right field on a full count giving the Nats a 3-0 lead. The inning only got worse for Oberholtzer, however, as Ryan Zimmerman then reached on an error, Adam LaRoche singled, and Wilson Ramos brought them both home with a bomb to left field.
Doug Fister was supposed to make his second start of the spring Friday, but was scratched due to right elbow inflammation. Manager Matt Williams said that he will rest for a couple of days, but his health is something to keep an eye on.
Tanner Roark started in place of Fister and performed admirably. Roark gave up one run in 2 and 2/3 innings of work, allowing four hits and a home run while striking out three. Roark, who is competing for the fifth and final spot in the Nationals rotation, has looked solid throughout the spring so far boasting a 1.93 ERA.
Christian Garcia replaced Roark in the third. Garcia pitched decently well, but received little help from his defense as Denard Span made an error in center field. The error seemed to fluster Garcia, who then walked Carlos Corporan and gave up a couple of hits allowing two Astros to score. Garcia pitched 1 and 1/3 innings with two unearned runs and three strikeouts.
Rafael Soriano replaced Garcia at the top of the fifth with the score 6-4 Nats. The Nats closer was hit hard giving up three hits and a run to the first five batters he faced. Soriano needs to be dominant this year for the Nats and this was not a good showing. Hopefully he can rebound from this shaky outing moving forward.
After the sixth inning and with a 6-5 lead, the Nationals took out the majority of their starters. A notable entry, Zach Walters, came in for Desmond and continued to make a strong case for making the roster. Walters singled home Will Rhymes and Jeff Kobernus to give the Nationals an 8-5 lead.
Jerry Blevins and Luis Ayala both pitched solidly today as well. Blevins, a crucial lefty in the Nats bullpen this upcoming season, pitched 1 and 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. Ayala followed Blevins with a solid 1 1/3 innings himself, allowing no runs and no hits. Tyler Robertson closed out the game and the Nationals defeated the Astros 8-5 for their fourth win of Spring Training.
- The Nationals are hoping for breakout years from both Bryce Harper and Ramos. The two have been injury prone in previous years, but if they can stay healthy and provide the power that they did today the future looks promising.
- Soriano made his Spring Training debut today and looked out of place. He came into camp after working hard this offseason to lose weight in an attempt gain velocity on his fastball. The Nats need him to be a more dominant closer this year than he was last year (he blew six saves) and this was not a good start. Hopefully, Soriano just needs to get into the swing of things and then he will be back to his old ways.
- Walters and Roark both have made strong showings in Spring Training so far. Ross Detweiler and Danny Espinosa better be looking in their rear view mirrors.
(Photo Courtesy: District Sports Page)