For the second time in a week, the Washington Nationals and Detroit Tigers met up in a battle of the aces. This time however, it was a matchup between flame thrower Stephen Strasburg, and former Cy Young winner, Justin Verlander.
Stephen Strasburg pitched like a man ready for the 2015 season to start. He challenged hitters and struck out five over his four innings pitched while walking none. The Tigers managed just three hits against Strasburg, as he looked to make a case to be the Nationals Opening Day starter. If he continues to pitch like this, Williams will have a very difficult time choosing a pitcher to start April 6 against the Mets.
Nationals hitters did their job as well and helped Strasburg by getting to Verlander early.
In the first, Ian Desmond ripped the first pitch he saw to the center field wall for a one-out triple. Wilson Ramos, batting clean-up for the Nats, then came through with a single up the middle for the two-out RBI and an early 1-0 lead.
Two innings later, Tony Gwynn Jr. doubled the lead with a solo shot to right. It was his first home run of the spring. He is now hitting .429 this spring. Gwynn Jr. was originally thought to be a long shot to make the roster, but with the Denard Span injury, he just might find his way onto the team if he can show his bat can hold its own in the Nationals lineup.
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In their next set of at-bats, Wilson Ramos led-off with another single up the middle. Ramos is at his best when he is driving the ball up the middle, or to the right side, so one can only hope he is ready to go and set for a big 2015 season.
Two batters later, with Ramos still on first, first baseman Kila Ka’aihue homered off of Verlander, giving the Nationals a 4-0 lead. This was Ka’aihue’s second homer of the spring, but just his third hit thus far.
Top pitching prospect A.J. Cole took over for Strasburg in the fifth. After retiring the first five batters he faced, Cole allowed a solo homer to Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, making it a 4-1 ballgame.
The Nats came right back in the top of the seventh and added two more runs of their own. It started with a single to left from Dan Uggla. Speedy infield prospect Emmanuel Burriss then came on to run for the veteran, and promptly stole second. Ka’aihue then watched four consecutive balls fly by and advanced to first with a walk. Kevin Frandsen was next to the plate and was hit by the first pitch he saw.
Now with the bases loaded and no outs, Matt Skole singled to center, driving home Burriss. Two batters later, top infield prospect Wilmer Difo made it 6-1 with a sacrifice fly to center to score Cutter Dykstra (who came on to run for Frandsen).
In the eight, left hander Jerry Blevins came in to replace Cole. Blevins struggled on this day. He walked a batter and allowed two hits, including a three-run homer to Tigers outfielder Tyler Collins. After he hit the next batter, Xavier Cedeno relieved Blevins and recorded the final out of the inning.
In the ninth Rich Hill closed it out for the Nationals in his first save opportunity of the spring.
With the win, the Nats improved to 6-7 this spring. They will look to continue the winning trend tomorrow against their division foe, the Miami Marlins at 1:05 PM ET in Jupiter. Doug Fister will square off against former Reds pitcher, Mat Latos.