The Nats fell to the Braves, 3-2, on a walk-off despite fielding a decidedly B-team pitching staff, featuring no players who are likely to see the majors this year. Are Mike Rizzo and Matt Williams trying to lull the Nats’ division rival into a false sense of security? Let’s go with that.
The other half of the Nats also lost on a walk-off, this time to the Astros, 10-9. They also allowed ten runs despite trotting out five pitchers who are all more likely to play for the Nats this season than any pitcher who played against Atlanta. More lulling? Definitely.
The offensive regulars traveled to Lake Buena Vista to take on the Atlanta, and though the team scored just two runs, the players had strong personal stat lines. Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, and Adam LaRoche all reached base once in three plate appearances, while Denard Span and Anthony Rendon both reached twice. Span’s remarkable spring has continued, and his 2-for-3 today brings his average to .429.
Speaking of remarkable springs, Zach Walters had the worst game of his torrid March, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, dropping his average all the way to .500. It was a difficult offensive day for prospects in both games, with Michael Taylor, Matt Skole, Steven Souza, and Brian Goodwin also failing to reach base.
The Nats’ backups were offered a chance to shine against Houston with the starters out of the way, and they grabbed it. Nate McLouth, Jose Lobaton, Tyler Moore, and Scott Hairston all reached base. A few non-roster invitees made splashes as well, as Jamey Carroll, Chris Snyder, and Mike Fontenot all collected hits. Will Rhymes was 3-for-5 and is now hitting .400, perhaps forcing his way into major league callup consideration.
Some non-roster and prospect pitchers turned in nice performances too. Clay Hensley, Josh Roenicke, Danny Rosenbaum, and Aaron Barrett threw a combined 5.1 shutout innings, yielding just three hits.
The major league pitchers fared less well against the Astros lineup. Tanner Roark was tagged for three runs in 3.1 IP, and Craig Stammen allowed three of his own in two innings, though two were unearned thanks to a Eury Perez dropped fly ball in center. Jerry Blevins yielded his first run of the spring, and Xavier Cedeno gave up his first three in blowing the save and allowing Houston to walk off.
- Today saw some strong performances from the backup outfielders, as Nate McLouth homered and Scott Hairston was 2-2. Since bench issues sunk the Nats last year, these two will be key to an offensive rebound in 2014.
- Ian Desmond did not play today after a bouncing ball split his finger open. Manager Matt Williams said Desmond would have played if it were the regular season, but he will miss a few days. Ryan Zimmerman also did not play due to “general soreness,” which seems as though he’s just getting a day off.
- Today’s game was the first Spring Training game I have ever watched where there was a player I’ve never heard of. It makes me feel ignorant, but come on: Jose Lozada? He’s advanced through the minors at two years a level since being drafted in the 17th round in 2008. He hit .204/.276/.254 while repeating Double A last year. He’s 28. What is this guy doing in a major league spring game? At least I know his name now.