The Nationals played split-squad games for the second time this spring Wednesday afternoon, as they lost 3-2 to the Braves in Orlando and 10-9 to the Astros in Kissimmee. Both games ended in walk-off fashion for the home team.
Chris Young got the start for the Nationals against the Braves and gave up two runs while striking out three batters over three innings of work.
The Nationals got on the board in the top of the first inning when a wild pitch by Braves’ starter Alex Wood allowed Danny Espinosa to score from third. The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as the Braves took the lead on a two-run homer by Freddie Freeman in the top of the third, making it a 2-1 game.
The bats went silent for both clubs over the next several innings until Nationals’ outfielder Caleb Ramsey tied the game on an RBI single in the top of the eighth inning. That was all the offense the Nationals would get, however, as the Braves won the game on an RBI single by Elmer Reyes in the bottom of the ninth.
Meanwhile, just over 20 miles south of Orlando, Tanner Roark threw three innings against the Houston Astros, giving up three runs on three hits and two walks while striking out three batters.
The Astros scored their first run off of Roark on an RBI double by Jason Castro in the bottom of the first. The Nationals game right back the next inning, however, when an RBI double by Eury Perez and an RBI ground out by Mike Fontenot gave Washington a 3-2 lead. Unlike the Braves game, however, the offenses were only getting started in this game.
The Astros took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third on a two-run homer by Castro, but the Nationals would take the lead right back the next inning on a two-run single by Will Rhymes in the top of the fourth. The lead wouldn’t last long though, as Houston tied the game in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single by Jonathan Villar.
But the Nationals offense kept on abusing Houston pitching when they scored five runs in the top of the fifth, giving them a seemingly comfortable 9-4 lead. But the Astros slowly chipped away at Washington’s lead, scoring two runs in the seventh and a run in the eighth. The Nationals went into the bottom of the ninth hanging on to a two run lead, which unfortunately was not enough to beat a persistent Houston offense, as they scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth against Xavier Cedeno.
Despite the loss, Wednesday was a good day for several Nationals players.
Mike Fontenot drove in three runs for the Nationals, a strong performance for a veteran infielder who is hoping to make the Opening Day roster. Right-hander Craig Stammen threw two strong innings, striking out four batters.
The Nationals also had their first taste of Major League Baseball’s new instant replay policy. The replay came in the sixth inning, when Nationals’ catcher Jose Lobaton was called out at first on the back-end of a double play. Manager Matt Williams challenged the call and after a 45 second delay, the call was upheld. Sure it was at a meaningless part of a meaningless exhibition game, but it’s still nice to see, with our own eyes, that baseball has in fact entered the twenty- first century.
The Nationals also received some news on the injury front Wednesday, as Ian Desmond was scratched from the lineup due to a finger injury. He’ll rest for a couple of days, and should be back in the lineup sometime in the near future.
Ian Desmond was scratched because he took a grounder off pinkie on throwing hand in warmups and it split open. Will sit out a couple days.
— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) March 12, 2014
The Nationals will be back at it tomorrow afternoon at Space Coast Stadium, where they will take on the New York Mets at 1:05 p.m. EST.