On Twitter, Ian Desmond called the Washington Nationals' game today a dolly whopper, a term of his own creation. I can’t think of any description more apt for this 31-run, 14-walk, six-error, four-hour monstrosity. If you didn’t follow the game, just read and you’ll see what I mean.
Starting the game and making his spring debut, Jordan Zimmermann easily handled a Braves’ lineup that featured the starting infield but only backup outfielders. He allowed just one hit, and that was quickly erased by a double play. As always, Zimmermann did a good job of keeping the ball on the ground, inducing five of his six outs on ground balls before striking out Dan Uggla. Zimmermann’s ground-balling ways were backed up by some great fielding by Danny Espinosa, who started the game at shortstop.
In the bottom of the second, Jose Lobaton hit a single to left in his first at-bat as a Nat. He was followed by a single from Zach Walters, his third straight hit to open Spring Training, but Steven Souza grounded into a double play to end the threat.
Lefty Matt Purke also pitched in his first game of the spring, and got hit quite hard. The former #9 prospect in the Nationals organization according to Baseball America, he has seen his stock drop over the past year. He did not appear in the Nationals’ 2014 top ten prospects, and was certainly not helped by his showing today. In the third, he gave up two runs on a walk and three hits, all of which were hard-hit balls. Curiously, he failed to retire a single lefty, as they went 3-3 with a walk against him. He was lucky to end the inning down just 2-0.
The Nats struck back in the home half of the frame, with a double by non-roster invitee 1B Brock Peterson, a single by Denard Span, and a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rendon that was robbed of being a three-run homer by Braves CF Jordan Schafer. Span was driven in by a Tyler Moore sacrifice fly to tie it 2-2, but the tie was short-lived, as Purke continued to struggle in the fourth. He got one out before giving up a walk and a hit, after which Matt Williams had seen enough and yanked him for fellow prospect Blake Treinen. Unfortunately, Treinen was not much better, allowing both inherited runners to score and giving up an earned run of his own before the inning was out.
Trailing by three, the Nats’ bats came back once again, using four hits and two walks to score four more runs in the fourth and reclaim a 6-5 lead. But after this inning, the game took a hideous turn.
I’ll spare you the specifics, because they are gruesome and this was Spring Training, but here is what happened in the top of the fifth. The Braves scored nine runs on ten hits. The Nationals committed four errors, including two by well-regarded defender Michael Taylor on the same play. Treinen allowed five more runs, three of which were earned, before being replaced by Josh Roenicke. Roenicke allowed four more runs, all earned, before getting out of the frame.
But, of course, this is Spring Training, so it got crazier. The Nats scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth on one hit, cutting the lead to 14-11. They were able to achieve this feat due to four walks, an error, a wild pitch, and two RBI groundouts.
In the top of the sixth, Braves scored one run on three hits in a relatively normal frame, with the newly-acquired Felipe Rivero acquitting himself well for never having pitched above High A.
But it got nasty again in the bottom of the sixth, when Atlanta’s Wirfin Obispo walked four of five batters to score a run, and his replacement, Shae Simmons, immediately gave up a bases-clearing double to Mike Fontenot to tie the game at 15. Matt Skole drove Fontenot in with two outs to give the Nats an improbable 16-15 lead.
To sum that up: at least one run was scored for eight straight half innings from the top of the third to the bottom of the sixth. Each team scored ten (TEN!) runs between the fifth and sixth innings. Just let that sink in.
Mercifully, things cleared up in the game’s final third. Clay Hensley managed to not allow a run despite giving up four hits and a walk in 1.1 IP, and Luis Ayala got the final five outs and earned the save.
-The Nats media who actually saw the game universally panned Matt Purke. It’s not wise to base any judgment off of one bad game, but it’s starting to look like he has an uphill battle to ever be a productive major leaguer.
-Zach Walters has reached base in every one of his spring training plate appearances so far. Another small sample, but he should be spending some time with the big boys this season.
-Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin, two very good defensive outfielders, had some adventures on the field today, including allowing a ball to drop between them when Taylor was in right. Taylor went 0-3 at the plate with a run scored, and Goodwin was 0-1 with two walks and three runs scored.
-The Braves outhit the Nats 25-12, and the Nats committed four more errors, but Atlanta issued 11 free passes to Washington’s three, and left 12 men on base to the Washington’s seven.
-This was a terribly sloppy game that lasted four hours and was only available to me through the Atlanta radio broadcast, where they called the Nationals’ defense the “keystone cops.” I’m just glad it’s over.