The Nationals played the Detroit Tigers on Thursday in a spring training game that featured a good pitching matchup. Stephen Strasburg took the mound for the Nats, facing Max Scherzer of the Tigers, last year’s Cy Young Award winner.
This appeared to be a big time pitching matchup, and it was until the bottom of the third inning. Up to that point, both Strasburg and Scherzer had not allowed any of the hitters to do any serious damage.
Danny Espinosa lead off the inning with a single. Strasburg, attempting to bunt Espinosa over, instead made a shallow pop up in the infield that dropped. Scherzer’s only option was to throw Stephen out at first. Espinosa went to second. Denard Span then singled, and Danny was waived home. The ball got to the Tiger’s catcher Alex Avila before Danny did, but Avila was ruled to have missed the tag on Espinosa. Espinosa overslid home plate and then scampered back to touch the bag before Avila could touch him. Undoubtedly this is a play that would have been challenged by Brad Ausmus, the Tiger’s skipper, but he could not do so because the game was not televised and the replay rule was not in effect.
Whether Espinosa’s run would have held up ended up not mattering. The next batter, Ian Desmond, hit a two run homer. The Nats would have touched up Scherzer for some runs anyway. The inning ended on strikeouts by Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman.
Strasburg cruised into the fifth inning, when he ran into a bit of trouble of his own. He walked Don Kelly, the first batter, on four pitches, then gave up a double to Austin Jackson that put runners on second and third with one out. Stephen got Nick Castellanos to strike out on a wicked fastball, then induced a ground ball out from Trevor Crowe to end the inning. The Tigers did not score.
In the bottom of the fifth, with Scherzer still pitching for the Tigers, Chris Snyder was robbed of a home run by Tyler Collins, who reached over the wall to make a leaping catch of a ball destined to be a souvenir.
Drew Storen pitched a high stress sixth inning for the Nats. Danny Worth doubled and moved to third on a ground out by Ian Kinsler. Drew then walked Collins to put runners on the corners with one out. Victor Martinez hit an RBI single, scoring Worth for the first Tiger run of the day. Storen then got a fly out and a ground out to end the inning and the Tiger scoring threat.
Scherzer came out to pitch the sixth for the Tigers and it was apparent he was being stretched a bit too far. Werth, singled and then was replaced by pinch runner Jeff Kobernus. Next batter Zimmerman tripled off the right field wall, scoring Kobernus. After Bryce Harper popped out, Jose Lobaton singled to drive in Zimmerman. Scherzer was done with the score 5-1 in favor of the Nats.
Ryan Mattheus made his spring training debut. He has been battling a chest injury. Mattheus pitched well in a three up, three down inning. Michael Gonzalez pitched the eighth for the Nats and also had a one-two-three inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Tiger pitcher Blaine Hardy gave up an RBI single to Anthony Rendon, scoring Jamey Carroll, who had singled earlier in the inning. Lobaton then doubled for two more RBI, driving in Kobernus and Rendon. Lobaton had a good day at the plate, with a single, a double and three RBI. The Tigers had seen enough of Lane Hardy and brought in Zac Reininger to finish out the eighth.
Jerry Blevins finished the game for the Nats in a three up three down inning of his own.
The Nats look ready. The beginning of the season can’t come soon enough.