The Washington Nationals used four home runs to help hold off the Mets in the Grapefruit League Opener yesterday
Spring training games got underway for the Washington Nationals yesterday as they took on the New York Mets at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie. With three straight games on the road, most of the regulars did get in the lineup yesterday. The end of the game was wild to say the least, but the Nats found a way to win.
If there was one key thing to take away from yesterday, it was Bryce Harper looking like his old self again. True, it was only one game, but Harper looked locked in from the start. In the top of the second, he took a second pitch fastball from Sean Gilmartin and crushed it to right center.
Then, in the fourth inning, Harper had the only hit of the day against Logan Taylor as he singled to left field. While you shouldn’t overreact to one spring game, he looked like the Harper of old again. But, all that matters this spring is that he stays healthy.
Outside of Harper, the main story for the offense was the minor leaguers showing off their power.Neftali Soto
hit a two-run home run off the batter’s eye in the top of the fifth. The 27-year-old (turns 28 on Tuesday) hit ten home runs in 93 games at double-A Harrisburg last season.
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In the following inning, a pair of prospects went back-to-back. Andrew Stevenson hit a two-run home run to right. Stevenson had a great Arizona Fall League and is hoping to continue that success this spring and in the regular season down in the minor leagues.
While Stevenson gets all the attention, a player to watch might be Matt Skole. He had 24 home runs at triple-A Syracuse last year. After the Stevenson home run, he cleared the wall in right center for a solo home run of his own. The Nats have Major League depth at first base with Adam Lind and Clint Robinson, but don’t sleep on Skole.
On the pitching side, Gio Gonzalez didn’t pitch much (14 pitches), but found his way out of trouble. Trea Turner’s error allowed Jose Reyes to reach base to start the game. Now, it’s not the same pressure as the regular season, but the left-hander did a good job in staying composed and getting the next three hitters out, including a Curtis Granderson strikeout.
One of the Washington Nationals more intriguing non-roster invitees was Joe Nathan. He pitched the third inning yesterday and gave up one hit (Rene Rivera single). Now, his fastball was only around 90-92 miles per hour, so his velocity will be something to watch the rest of the spring.
If there’s one pitcher where velocity is going to help him, it’s Enny Romero. In his Washington Nationals spring debut, he showed erratic command early with a leadoff walk. But, he bounced back by retiring the next three hitters in the seventh inning.
The key for Romero is going to be his fastball. If he is able to control that pitch, he will find some success in the Washington Nationals bullpen this season. To be fair, the only Major Leaguer he faced in that inning was Ty Kelly:
During the final two innings, the game got interesting. The trio of Austin Adams, Derek Eitel, and Mike Broadway combined to walk seven batters with three of those walks driving in runs. But, thanks to some good defense by Skole at first in the ninth, the Nats were able to hang on for the 8-6 victory.
Next Game: Today, the Washington Nationals are in Fort Myers to take on the Minnesota Twins at 1:05 p.m ET. A.J. Cole will get the start for the Nats against Trevor May for the Twins. Some of the Nats regulars that will be in the lineup are Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon (according to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post).