Strasburg Sharp As Nats Top Marlins

The Nats limited the anemic Marlins offense to one run today as they beat their NL East rivals 2-1. This may seem like nothing out of the ordinary, given how bad the Marlins were last year and that the team has not changed much since, but Spring Training is an odd, wonderful world. The Marlins entered today with the best record of any Grapefruit League team at 10-4, but they looked just like their old selves against the Nationals’ pitching staff. Like Rafael Soriano’s indifference, some things never change.

Stephen Strasburg was the star of today’s game, mowing down the hapless Fish. He pitched four scoreless innings, allowing two hits, one walk, and striking out four. He was efficient too, powering through in just 61 pitches. The Marlins lineup was missing its main offensive threat, home-run cyborg Giancarlo Stanton, which certainly made Strasburg’s job easier, but he impressed nonetheless. His strong spring continues, as his total line now resembles an impressive complete game: in three outings, he has racked up nine innings, five hits, one run, three walks, and five strikeouts.

While Strasburg thrilled, the rest of the Nats’ pitchers were just as good. Jerry Blevins and Aaron Barrett both tossed perfect frames with two strikeouts, and Tyler Clippard’s outing was nearly the same, except with a walk. Only Craig Stammen allowed a hit, and he also gave up a walk and allowed a run to score in his two innings of work.

The offense was confronted with quite a challenge, pitted against reigning NL Cy Young runner-up and Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, who had yet to allow a run this spring.  But the Nats broke through with a walk, a Danny Espinosa double, and a sacrifice fly in the third inning. The Nationals only totaled six hits today, but also took six walks, supplementing the offense substantially.

A third of the hits came from big-league starters, specifically one each from Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos. Two others came from projected backups Tyler Moore and Espinosa, with the final two from minor leaguers Steven Souza and Jeff Kobernus. Zach Walters and Will Rhymes both continued to cool off, as both failed to get a base hit.

Ryan Zimmerman was 0-3 as the DH, not fielding after his shoulder felt sore recently. Adam LaRoche and Nate McLouth were the only other two players to register three at-bats and go hitless.

Some thoughts:

- Zach Walters may still be hitting .478, but he is just 3-for-14 (.214) since starting 6-for-8. He was not likely to get any playing time in the pros even if he did continue hitting the cover off the ball, but his Spring Training star has certainly dimmed.

- It was encouraging to see the Nats walk so much today. Walks are hugely valuable in baseball, more so than many realize, meaning patience at the plate is important. Davey Johnson always espoused aggressiveness at the dish, so it’s good to see the Nats might be taking a few more pitches under Williams, or at least not taking fewer.

- Ryan Zimmerman’s injury may seem like the worst-case scenario for Nats fans, given that he has gone on the disabled list each of the past three Aprils and how his shoulder problems last season ruined his third-base defense. But the problem he appears to be experiencing now seems minor, and for the first time the option for him to play a bit at first base exists. There are much stronger contingencies for Zimmerman’s shoulder than there have been in the past, which means less cause for worry.

About Andrew Flax

Writer for The Nats Blog

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