Mar 16, 2014; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Houston Astros catcherSandy Leon
(41) and starting pitcherGio Gonzalez
(47) walk to the pitching mound during the game against the Houston Astros at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Nationals are entering the home stretch of spring training after playing their final round of split-squad action Sunday afternoon, losing to the Detroit Tigers, 2-1, and topping the Houston Astros, 4-3.
Jordan Zimmermann got the start for the Nationals as they faced Justin Verlander and the Tigers. How did the match up between two of the best pitchers in the game go? Well, it went exactly how you would expect it to go.
Zimmermann gave up a run in the top of the first on an RBI ground out by Don Kelly, but not much else. The right-hander threw four innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts. Spring training stats don’t say much, but when it takes a pitcher three weeks to give up his first run of the spring, you know he is pretty much ready for opening day.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, the Tigers’ ace was just as good as Zimmermann. Verlander threw five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out four batters.
With both starters cruising on the mound, it remained a one-run game until the bottom of the seventh inning, when Jeff Kobernus scored from third on a passed ball by Tigers’ catcher Bryan Holaday, making it a 1-1 game.
But the Tigers would retake the lead in the top of the eighth inning when Nationals’ reliever Mike Gonzalez gave up an RBI double to Danny Worth. Detroit shut down the Nationals offense for the final two innings, and won the game, 2-1.
Despite giving up two hits and getting the loss, Gonzalez did not look too bad in his spring training debut for the Nationals. He showed some rust over an inning of work, but his command was solid for someone who has not pitched in a game all spring, throwing nine of his 13 pitches for strikes. The left-hander will likely see a lot of game action over the next couple of weeks as he tries to become the second lefty out of the bullpen for the Nationals.
Meanwhile, the other half of the team was playing the Astros in Kissimmee. Gio Gonzalez got the start for the Nationals and he turned in a great performance of his own. The left-hander threw four and two-thirds innings of one-run ball while allowing just three hits and striking out four batters.
Steven Souza started the scoring for Washington in the top of the second inning on a solo home run off of Astros’ starter Scott Feldman. Souza homered again for the Nationals in the top of the fourth inning, making it a 2-0 game. The Nationals made it a three-run game in the top of the fifth inning on an RBI single by Brian Goodwin.
The Astros would not go down quietly, however, as they scored two runs over the next two innings, cutting Washington’s lead to 3-2. But the Nationals got one of those runs right back in the top of the seventh on an RBI triple by, you guessed it, Steven Souza. It was a huge day for the 24-year-old who is trying to make the opening day roster as he finished 3-3 with three RBIs and a walk.
Houston scored its third and final run on an RBI double by Jon Singleton against Nationals’ reliever Christian Garcia before Manny Delcarmen shut the door in the ninth inning, finishing a 4-3 win for the Nationals.
Perhaps the most important development from today’s games was the fact that Ryan Zimmerman saw game action at first base for the first time.
With today’s games in the books, the Nationals have just 11 games remaining on their Grapefruit League schedule, with one of them being at Nationals Park. So despite the fact that there might be eight inches of snow outside your window, opening day is coming… and it’s coming fast.
The Nationals will be back at it tomorrow afternoon when they take on the Detroit Tigers for the third time in the last four days. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. EST.