March 16, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Mark DeRosa (7), right fielder Bryce Harper (34) and left fielder Jason Michaels (12) talk prior to the game against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
• It's unfortunate but inevitable that each time opposing teams' announcers see Washington Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos for the first time this year, they'll remind everyone watching of the kidnapping incident that occurred in the catcher's home country of Venezuela this past winter. The New York Yankees' announcers quickly recapped the details of the 50 hour+ ordeal, (that saw the 24-year-old taken from his home by gunmen and held at a remote mountain location until he was rescued by police and military forces following a gunfight), when Ramos stepped to the plate for the first time this afternoon (against CC Sabathia) with the bases loaded in the top of the first inning. Ramos hit into a 6-4-3 DP, but a run scored on the play, putting the Nationals up 1-0 early in their Grapefruit League game against the Yankees. Ramos' backup, Jesus Flores, then came through with a two-out, RBI double in the next AB, and made it a 2-0 game after a 1/2 inning at Steinbrenner Field.
• SPOTLIGHT MATCHUPS: CC Sabathia vs Bryce Harper: Brett Carroll ripped a line drive single to center in front of Bryce Harper before Harper's first at bat of the game against NY starter CC Sabathia in the second. The Yankees' big veteran left-hander started Harper with a big looping curve that fell in for a called strike. 0-1. Harper fouled off the second offering from the All-Star starter, but held back on an 0-2 bender in the dirt from Sabathia, 1-2, before he K'd swinging at filthy a 1-2 slider that broke in and over the left-handed hitting Harper's right shoulder and fell under his bat as he swung. Swinging K. Harper's 0 for 6 since returning from a calf strain that cost him six games...
• Harper's second AB came in the fourth with Yankees' right-hander Rafael Soriano on the hill. Harper fouled off a first pitch fastball from the veteran reliever, took a ball low, another one inside, 2-1, then took a big swing at slow breaking ball that he missed before sending a sharp grounder out to second on the 2-2 pitch from Soriano. 0 for 2 today, 0 for his last 7.
• Harper's third at bat of the game came in the sixth with Yankees' right-hander Phil Hughes on the hill. Hughes started Harper with an over-the-top curve for a called strike one. Hughes missed with a 91mph fastball up high, outside, 1-1, then missed low with another fastball, 1-2, before he came inside with a two-seamer Harper fouled off. The 2-2 pitch missed outside as Harper worked the count full. The Yankees' 25-year-old, sixth-year starter tried to fool the 19-year-old Harper with a full-count curve, but Harper waited on it and ripped a grounder by first, off NY 1B Brandon Laird and into right field for a single. 1 for 3 on the day for Harper. #whathitlessabstreak?
• Harper squared to bunt but pulled back on a pitch outside from Yankees' left-hander Cesar Cabral in the Nats' outfielder's fourth AB in the top of the ninth. Cabral missed with two pitches to make it 3-0 and Harper took a healthy cut but missed swinging at a 3-0 fastball from the 23-year-old left-hander who pitched at Double-A in the Red Sox' system last year in his fifth season in Boston's organization. Cabral got a curve in over the middle for a called strike two and got Harper swinging with a full-count change. 1 for 4 on the day for Harper.
• Lombardozzi wants your job!!: Steve Lombardozzi made a nice play at third base, barehanding a swinging bunt by Curtis Granderson in the bottom of the first. The 23-year-old 2011 MiLB Gold Glove-winning infielder got to ball in the grass as it rolled down the third base line, made the barehand play and made a strong throw to first that was high but only forced Mark DeRosa to stretch a little bit to catch it. The speedy NY leadoff hitter beat the throw by a step, but it was a nice effort by Lombardozzi to even make it close. At Double-and-Triple-A in the Nats' system last year, Lombardozzi played the majority of his games at second, but when he was called up the majors he saw time at third, short and second as the Nationals tried to determine whether or not he could fill a utility role this season.
Lombardozzi showed of the glove again when he robbed Yankees' catcher Francisco Cervelli on a sharp grounder to third in the bottom of the second. Lomardozzi dove on the hard hit grounder, then popped up to throw out the catcher in another impressive defensive effort, then hit a line drive HR to left off CC Sabathia to lead off the top of the third and give the Nationals a 3-1 lead. Lombardozzi would end up 3 for 3 on the day, singling in the first, homering in the third off Sabathia before singling again in the fifth when he faced Phil Hughes. (ed. note - "Check out Washington Examiner writer Brian McNally's story on Lombardozzi.")