WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: Starting pitcher Ross Detwiler #48 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on September 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
• It took just eight pitches for Washington Nationals' left-hander Ross Detwiler to retire the Miami Marlins in order in the top of the first inning tonight. It took Ian Desmond one pitch to give the Nats' starter a 1-0 lead to work with. The Nationals' shortstop and leadoff man hit his second HR of the Spring on the first pitch Fish right-hander Josh Johnson threw in the bottom of the first, taking the Marlins' ace deep to left-center for a no-doubter and an early 1-0 Nats' lead. Detwiler returned to the mound and set the next three batters down in a 1-2-3 second, but in the third inning the Marlins got to the 26-year-old '07 1st Round pick. Omar Infante started the inning by ripping a double by Ryan Zimmerman at third and into the left field corner, then the Marlins' 2011 All-Star rep took third on a one-out single by Josh Johnson and scored on an RBI hit by Jose Reyes to tie the game at 1-1. Detwiler issued a two-out walk to Hanley Ramirez to load the bases, but popped Giancarlo Stanton up to end the bottom of the third and keep it knotted up at 1-1...
The Nats' left-hander bounced back from a long third to retire the Marlins in order quickly in the fourth. The Nationals scored two more in the home half of the inning with Jayson Werth walking, moving to second on a line drive single to center by Adam LaRoche, taking third on a line drive to right by Mark DeRosa, and scoring on a sharp RBI grounder back up the middle by out-of-nowhere outfield option Xavier Nady, who made it 2-1 Nationals with his fourth hit in 10 at bats since Davey Johnson decided to give him a look in major league camp. Three straight hits off Josh Johnson after the leadoff walk to Werth, and the bases are still loaded, but Wilson Ramos grounds into a 6-4-3 DP that brings the third Nats' run in, and Ross Detwiler K's looking to strand two, so the Nationals have a 3-1 lead after four innings in Space Coast Stadium.
Detwiler retired the Marlins in order in the fifth, the fourth 1-2-3 inning of five for the left-hander tonight, who's done after 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K's, 69 pitches, 50 strikes. Asked about getting used to working out of the pen again during an interview on MASN during the game, the left-hander told Bob Carpenter and FP Santangelo he was okay with the change. "It's just something you've got to come to terms with," Detwiler said, "You're still putting on a uniform every day, so you can't complain about that." In 6 games and 16.2 IP this Spring, Detwiler's now given up 14 hits and seven runs, six earned, while walking five and striking out 17.
• Speaking of striking out. Danny Espinosa walked once in four at bats tonight, striking out in the other three, swinging the first two times and looking in his third at bat in the fifth. The three K's were strikeouts no.'s 21, 22 and 23 in 63 Grapefruit League at bats. When the 23-year-old infielder appeared on MLB Network Radio this week he talked about the trouble he was having with the batter's eye in the Nationals' Spring home, explaining simply, "I've had a hard time seeing the ball as far as at this stadium [Space Coast], just, I can't see the ball well here." Espinosa talked about his issues with the batter's eye again tonight after his 3 K day, leading reporters, NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, in particular to look at the stats:
Espinosa blames small batter's eye in Viera for poor stats...and he may be right. Home splits: .200/.273/.225. Road: .304/.360/.348.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 31, 2012
More evidence to support Espinosa's claim of small batter's eye in Viera: Home vs. RHP 3-for-29, Road vs RHP: 5-for-17.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 31, 2012
After tonight's 0 for 3 game, Espinosa's got a .238/.304/.270 line with two doubles, two walks and 23 K's in 20 games and 63 AB's. The rookie infielder led the majors in K's by a second baseman last season, his 166 K's tied with Mike Stanton tied for the sixth highest total league-wide, and as ESPN.com's Jayson Stark noted on Twitter this afternoon (@JaysonST) the high K total by the Nats' second baseman was actually the second-most... Ever?:
Danny Espinosa whiffed 166 times last yr, 2nd-most ever by switch-hitter. Scout asked me to look up who's 1st. Even he wouldn't believe it!— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) March 30, 2012
For the fun of it, register you answer for which switch-hitter collected the most K's in a season below and then you can click HERE to see the answer the ESPN writer later revealed.
• Ninth Inning Belongs To Henry Rodriguez: Craig Stammen took over on the mound after Ross Detwiler was done tonight, giving up a run on a Logan Morrison single in the sixth, and he pitched his way around two singles in the sixth with the help of a caught stealing by Carlos Maldonado on what looked like a botched hit-and-run unless the Marlins were trying to get catcher John Buck a rare stolen base. (He has four SB's in 8 seasons and 842 games. Either way, Stammen handed a 3-2 lead to Ryan Mattheus in the eighth and he set Henry "Lightning" Rodriguez up for the save.
The 24-year-old Nats' right-hander got a weak grounder to second by Omar Infante then struck John Buck out before surrendering a two-out single to former Nats' outfielder Austin Kearns. Rodriguez stranded Kearns' pinch runner at second though (after a stolen base) when he blew a 1-2 fastball by Jose Reyes outside to record his third save of the Spring and complete his 10.0 scoreless Grapefruit League inning. 3-2 Nats final. Rodriguez has now allowed just four hits and two walks while striking out nine. All together now, "Pretty Frickin' Bueno." - Steve McCatty.