Just over a week after A.J. Cole was reassigned to minor league camp, he was called upon to get the start in place of Stephen Strasburg, who missed his scheduled start Sunday afternoon due to an ankle injury sustained during some conditioning work. Cole would be facing off against Justin Verlander, who had just struggled in his previous start against the Nationals on Tuesday.
For the second straight matchup, the Nationals managed to hang several runs on the Tigers early. After Verlander needed only six pitches to get through the first, Mike Carp walked to lead off the second and went to third on a single by Ian Stewart. Catcher Sandy Leon doubled down the right field line to bring in the game’s first run. When Emmanuel Burriss grounded out to first, Stewart made the score 2-0, sneaking in just under the throw.
The Tigers would finally respond in the bottom of the fourth. A.J. Cole, who had looked sharp early, allowed a leadoff walk to Alex Avila. After a strikeout by Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez crushed a ball over the left field fence to cut the Nationals lead in half.
Cole would get the next hitter, Yoenis Cespedes to strikeout, but that would be the end of the day for him. He finished with two earned runs on one hit over 3.2 innings pitched, with five strikeouts and two walks before handing the ball and a 4-2 lead to Tanner Roark.
Michael Taylor would add to that lead quickly. In the top of the fifth, Taylor repeated his feat from the third inning, taking a pitch from Verlander deep for his second leadoff solo home run of the afternoon. Verlander would face one more hitter before his day was done. He ended having surrendered five earned runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
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After Tanner Roark pitched out of a bit of a jam in the fifth, the Nationals added another run in the top of the sixth off of Joe Nathan. Tyler Moore led off the inning with a double to left. His run would score in the person of Matt Skole, pinch running, when Sandy Leon grounded into a double play as the Tigers opted to trade the two outs for a run.
The Tigers would get a run back off of Matt Thornton in the sixth inning. With two outs, Yoenis Cespedes doubled to center field. The next hitter, Nick Castellanos, would bring him in on a single to Randolph Oduber in left field and make the score 6-3.
The Nationals’ three-run lead would be cut to one in the bottom of the seventh. Jerry Blevins allowed a one-out walk to Josh Wilson. After Rajai Davis struck out, Alex Avila sent a two-run shot over the wall in right center. Blevins managed to keep from incurring any further damage, but what had been a comfortable margin turned into a 6-5 game.
Washington would get one of those runs back in the top of the eighth. Randolph Oduber hit a line drive double into left field. A throwing error on catcher Grayson Greiner would allow Oduber to advance to third. Matt Skole‘s single would bring him home, and the lead was back to 7-5.
The two-run advantage went right back to one in the bottom of the frame, however. With Xavier Cedeno pitching, Wade Gaynor hit a solo homer to bring the Tigers back to within a run, and the game went to the ninth with the Nationals clinging to a 7-6 lead.
Unfortunately, Manny Delcarmen would not be able to hold the lead for the Nationals. After getting one out, the amusingly named Joey Pankake hit a solo home run over the left field wall. After Connor Harrell was hit by a pitch, Grayson Greiner flied out, and Steven Moya struck out swinging to end the game tied at 7-7.
While the offensive production was encouraging for the Nationals, the fact that the bullpen was unable to hold the lead and the team could not escape with a win was rather disappointing. Tomorrow, the Nationals will send Doug Fister to the mound to face Bryan Mitchell and the Yankees in Viera (1:05 PM ET, MASN) before having a day off on Tuesday.
- It just figures. As soon as I go out and criticize Michael Taylor, he goes off. Taylor went 2-for-3 on Sunday with two home runs.
- The bullpen for the Nationals struggled today after solid outings by both A.J. Cole and Tanner Roark. Matt Thornton, Jerry Blevins, Xavier Cedeno and Manny Delcarmen all allowed at least one run apiece.
- Matt Skole continues to impress. He’s hitting .409 for the spring after going 1-for-1 today. It remains to be seen whether he’ll make the Opening Day roster, but at this point, his hot bat is making an argument for Matt Williams to keep him in the majors.