After dropping the first game of the home-and-home to the Houston Astros yesterday in Kissimmee, the Washington Nationals, who were donning green hats with St. Patrick’s Day being tomorrow, defeated the Astros 2-1 in Viera. Jordan Zimmermann made his third start of the spring and his outing got better as the game went on. Plus, Clint Robinson continued to make his case to make the squad with an RBI triple to center field in the seventh inning, which would be the game-winning run. Houston did bring a split squad on the road, but the lineup did feature George Springer and Jed Lowrie among others.
Washington got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning. After Michael Taylor led off the inning with a triple, Ian Desmond would drive him in on a sacrifice fly to right field against Houston starter Mark Appel to make it 1-0 Nats.
In Zimmermann’s outing, he went four innings, gave up one run on three hits, struck out three, and walked one on 61 pitches. There was a scary moment in this game when the Nationals right-hander took a line drive to the arm in the top of the third from Robbie Grossman. Zimmermann would throw the ball away, causing Grossman to go to third, but he would stay in the game. With Grossman on third. Jonathan Villar would drive him in on a RBI single to left field to tie the game.
After that hit, Zimmermann retired the final six Astros batters in order. This included striking out three of the final four batters he faced using a variety of pitches in his arsenal.
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Even though the Nationals made two errors in this one, there were some great defensive plays in this game, particularly in the fifth inning. The first play came when Alex Presley tried to stretch a single into a double, but Bryce Harper threw him out at second base. Then, Tyler Moore would make an excellent diving catch in left field to take a hit away from Grossman.
Harper was very selective at the plate today as he went 0-for-1 with a groundout to first base, but still had two walks. The star of the day for the Nats on offense was Mike Carp. The first baseman who is trying to find a way to make the Opening Day roster had two singles in the game, both to right field in the second and fourth inning.
The game-winning hit came in the bottom of the seventh inning for Washington. With two outs, Tony Gwynn Jr. bunted for a base hit to keep the inning going. That would allow Clint Robinson the opportunity to drive him in with a triple to center against Kevin Chapman. With that hit, Robinson is now 9-for-20this spring with five runs batted in.
When you look at how the Nationals bullpen did today, the combination of Rafael Martin, Felipe Rivero, Matt Grace, and Aaron Barrett combined to throw five scoreless innings, give up five hits, strike out four, and walk one. Rivero stood out in this game with the two strikeouts (both looking) he had over two innings. Plus, he reached 96 miles per hour on the radar gun. While Barrett got in trouble in the ninth inning, he got the final out of the game via a strikeout by Teoscar Hernandez with runners on the corners.