Nationals Recap: Max Scherzer Tosses Four Scoreless as Nats Fall to Astros 3-2

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Just two days after playing to a 6-6 tie in a back-and-forth game, the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros met once again for a game Sunday afternoon. Taking the mound for Washington was Max Scherzer, making his third start of spring training. Pitching opposite him for the Astros would be Asher Wojciechowski.

For the first four innings, Scherzer and Wojciechowski battled against each other in a pitcher’s duel. The two combined to allow only four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts before handing the game over to the bullpens with the score still locked at 0-0.

The tie game was finally broken up in the top of the fifth inning. Pat Neshek hung a curve ball, and Dan Uggla made him pay by crushing the ball over the left field fence just inside the foul line for a solo shot.

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That 1-0 lead would not last long for the Nationals, however. Heath Bell took to the mound for the bottom of the inning in relief of Scherzer. After retiring the first two batters without trouble, he walked Andrew Aplin. The next batter up, Jake Marisnick, sent a warning track shot to the wall in center. Aplin scored, Marisnick ended up on third with a triple, and the game was tied 1-1.

The next two hitters would also take advantage of Bell. Jose Altuve doubled to left on a ball hit past a diving Matt Skole to bring in Marisnick. Alex Presley, pinch running for Altuve, came around to score on a single by George Springer to stretch the Astros lead to 3-1. Only a baserunning mistake by Springer allowed Bell to escape the inning without any further damage.

The game would remain locked at 3-1 until the top of the ninth. Derrick Robinson led off the inning with a triple to center field off of Will Harris. He would score to bring the deficit down to one on Steven Lerud‘s grounder back to the pitcher. The Nationals could not make any more progress from there, though. Emmanuel Burriss flied out to left for the second out of the inning and Cutter Dykstra brought the game to a close with a strikeout. The Astros won 3-2, and the Nationals fell to 4-7 for the spring season.

Tomorrow, the Nationals will face off against the Astros for the third time, though this time it will be against a Houston team playing a pair of split-squad games. Pitching for the Nationals will be Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 1.93 ERA), while the Astros will send out Mark Appel (1-0, 4.50 ERA). The game will be on MASN at 1:05 PM ET.

Notes:

  • Max Scherzer looked impressive in his longest outing of the spring on Sunday. Over four innings pitched, Scherzer allowed one hit and one walk with three strikeouts. Of his 60 pitches, 29 were strikes. That’s not an ideal ratio, but should continue to improve as the Nats move closer to Opening Day.
  • Heath Bell, on the other hand, did not look impressive. He retired the first two hitters he faced, but was an abject disaster afterward. He finished the day with three earned runs on three hits and a walk. If Springer had not been picked off by Kila Ka’aihue, his line could’ve been even worse.
  • Danny Espinosa struggled at the plate as he continued his attempt to hit solely from the right side. While he managed one walk, his other two at-bats resulted in strikeouts.
  • Casey Jannsen and Taylor Jordan combined to pitch three innings without giving up a run. They allowed two hits with one walk and a strikeout in the sixth through eighth innings.

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