February 23, 2012; Melbourne, FL, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Tom Gorzelanny (32) works out during camp at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

Washington Drops Pair To Houston

Washington started their official Grapefruit League season this weekend with a home-and-home series against the Houston Astros. Saturday afternoon’s contest was hosted by the Astros at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee while Sunday’s affair was at Space Coast Stadium in Viera.

Mar. 3, 2012; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) grounds out against the Houston Astros at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

One of the highlights of Saturday’s game was the fact that Bryce Harper was appearing in his first official Spring Training game. As hyped as the phenom was heading into last year’s Spring, he was kept out of the team’s games before spending his first professional season in the minor leagues. It still has yet to be determined, at least publicly, where he’ll begin the 2012 campaign (though I stand by my stance that he needs to spend at least a month in the minor leagues).

Harper started the game in right field, batting seventh in the lineup. He may have looked a little overmatched in his first at bat, missing badly on a sweeping curveball to start the game from opposing starter Livan Hernandez before ultimately grounding out. Harper would single in the 3rd before grounding out in his final at bat to go 1 for 3 on the game.

After the outing the 19 year old was asked about his chances at making the 25-man roster in April and he has really started to sound much more mature than he did last season, according to quotes passed along by ESPN.com:

If I play my game and do things right, I’ve got a shot. I’m not going to try to do too much and just roll with what I get.

Harper would get into Sunday’s game as well, appearing as a defensive replacement in right field for Brett Carroll (who’s reportedly been impressing management so far this Spring). He’d go for 1 for 2 after entering the game, adding another single.

Saturday’s game concluded with the Nationals on the losing end of a 3-1 score. Chris Johnson provided the big hit for Houston, a two run home run off of Ross Detwiler in the 4th. Jed Lowrie led off the 7th with a triple before eventually scoring their final run. Washington’s lone run came in the 5th thanks to a pair of doubles from Roger Bernadina and Jesus Flores.

Other notes from Saturday’s game …..

Bernadina went 2 for 3 in the game with a pair of doubles after getting the start in left field. He’s going to need a big Spring to earn a spot on the 25-man roster and a chance at significant playing time. This is certainly the right way to start.

Flores was the only other National with multiple hits in the game.

Edwin Jackson made his Spring debut, pitching two scoreless innings while allowing three baserunners (one hit, two walks). Chad Durbin and Sean Burnett also pitched well.

Detwiler – who’s expected to battle for the last rotation spot – took the loss, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits in his two innings of work. He did strike out three and walked one.

As for Sunday’s contest, the game was a very different one due mostly to two poor innings from the Nationals’ pitching staff. The final score showed Washington on the short end of a 10-2 final. Most of that, however, was thanks to a terrible outing by Tom Gorzelanny.

The left-hander entered the game with two outs and two on in the 3rd before allowing a three run home run to J.D. Martinez. Gorzelanny would then give up four more runs – including another home run, a three run shot by Fernando Martinez – before being pulled from the game. In total he allowed seven runs on three hits (two homers) while walking four and striking out just one.

Also from Sunday’s game …..

Stephen Strasburg made the start, pitching 2.2 innings. Houston officially scored two runs on three hits, while Strasburg struck out three. He did permit a solo home run to Chris Snyder on a pitch left over the middle of the plate, but otherwise looked sharp in his first outing of the Spring.

Ryan Mattheus, Brad Lidge, Jeff Fulchino, and Drew Storen all had scoreless outings in relief.

Ian Desmond had a rough game. He went 0 for 3 at the plate while leading off, continuing an alarming trend of swinging at the first pitch in every at bat. He also made two errors in the field, which hopefully is just some early jitters that he’ll work through with consistent game action.

Jason Michaels and Mark DeRosa each had two hit games. DeRosa in particular looked effortless at the plate, possibly a sign that he finally is healthy once again and ready to be an important piece of the lineup.

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Tags: Brett Carroll Bryce Harper Houston Astros Ian Desmond Mark DeRosa Roger Bernadina Ross Detwiler Stephen Strasburg Tom Gorzelanny Washington Nationals

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