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A half-inning after a home run off new Washington Nationals' closer Rafael Soriano gave the Houston Astros a 3-2 lead, Nats' pitcher-turned-hitter Micah Owings hit a grand slam that made it a 6-3 game in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium. That's how it ended as the Nats beat the AL West's Astros.
Chris Young's second start for the Washington Nationals this Spring began with Houston Astros' infielder Marwin Gonzalez, who hit two home runs in 219 major league plate appearances last season, taking the Nats' right-hander deep to right, into the wind and over the outfield wall for a leadoff home run and an early 1-0 'Stros' lead. In Young's first start for the Nationals, after signing a minor league deal on February 22nd, the 33-year-old, nine-year veteran surrendered three hits, three walks and three runs in 3.0 IP against the Miami Marlins. After giving up the leadoff blast and having Astros' first baseman Brett Wallace reach on a wind-aided error by Jayson Werth in right, Young recovered and retired the next three batters in order in a relatively quick opening frame. 1-0 Astros.
'09 Cleveland Indians' 1st Round pick Alex White, a right-hander acquired by the Astros from the Rockies this past December in a trade that sent RHP Wilton Lopez to Colorado, was also part of the July 2011 Ubaldo Jimenez deal between the Rockies and Indians. White made 23 appearances, 20 of them starts with the Rockies last year. His third start and fourth appearance this Spring started with Denard Span grounding out to second in the bottom of the first, but Jayson Werth took the Astros' right-hander yard in the next at bat, hitting his first home run of the Spring (6 for 23) and tying the game at 1-1. Ryan Zimmerman was 10 for 20 with two doubles and home run in Grapefruit League action after he hit a two-out, two-base hit one out before White escaped the first. 1-1 after one.
Chris Young walked the first batter he faced after the Nationals tied it up in the bottom of the first, putting Rick Ankiel on in the top of the second, but Young retired the next three Astros in order in a scoreless inning of work. Ian Desmond entered play today 8 for 21 in 12 Grapefruit League games and he was 9 for 22 when he singled to start the Nats' second. Wilson Ramos collected his fourth hit in 12 ABs one out later when he singled to center, moving Desmond to second and the Nats' shortstop took third on a pitch in the dirt Astros' catcher Jason Castro couldn't corral. With runners on the corners, Steve Lombardozzi came through with an RBI single, his 8th hit and 7th RBI in 16 games and 38 PAs. 2-1 Nationals after two.
After retiring eight-straight batters following the leadoff home run and ROE in the first, Chris Young issued his second walk of the game to Astros' outfielder Chris Carter in the top of the third, bringing Houston's DH Carlos Pena up with a runner on and two down. A two-out "infield" single to the outfield grass in right by Pena put two on with two out, but a Justin Maxwell fly to Bryce Harper in left ended the top of the frame with the Nationals still up by one. 2-1 Washington. Ryan Zimmerman was 2 for 2 today with two doubles after a two-out, two-base hit in the Nationals' third. 11 for 21 on the Spring. But Zim was stranded when Adam LaRoche K'd swinging to end the third.
Former National Rick Ankiel collected his 11th hit in 24 Spring Training ABs in the top of the fourth when he doubled (for the third time this Spring) off Chris Young to start the inning. Ankiel took third on another hit, this one by Astros' catcher Jason Castro, who singled on the next pitch Young threw, sending Ankiel to third, but two outs later, both runners were still on the corners after Young struck Matt Dominguez out and popped Marwin Gonzalez up to Adam LaRoche at first. Two down and a sharp grounder to short by Marwin Gonzalez strands two. Grounder (or low liner). Desmond. Out. 2-1 Nationals in the fourth. Alex White retired the Nats in order in the fourth, setting Desmond, Espinosa and Lombardozzi down in order in a quick inning of work.
• Chris Young's Line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR.
Zach Duke, the lone lefty in the Nats' pen, issued a two-out walk to Carlos Pena in the top of the fifth. Pena stole second on new Nats' catcher Chris Snyder with Justin Maxwell at the plate and an error by Duke on a Justin Maxwell grounder put runners on the corners with two down and Rick Ankiel up. Justin Maxwell stole the second base of the inning off Snyder (and Duke, I guess), but Ankiel K'd swinging to end the Astros' half of the inning. Houston lefty Wesley Wright got Denard Span looking on three pitches for the first out of the Nationals' fifth. Jayson Werth singled to center for his second hit in three at bats. Bryce Harper was 1 for 3 today (and 17 for 39 this Spring) after hustlin', hustlin' to first on a grounder to third and beating Astros' third baseman Brett Wallace's throw to first. Two outs later, however, both runners were stranded when Wright retired Zimmerman and LaRoche to end the fifth.
Duke's sixth went a bit smoother as the left-hander retired the Astros in order. Houston right-hander John Ely retired the Syracuse crew: Zach Walters, Carlos Rivero and Chris Snyder in order in the bottom of the sixth. Rafael Soriano came out for his fourth inning of work this Spring in the top of the seventh. Brandon Laird connected for a leadoff single to start the inning and 6'8'', 250 lb Astros' slugger Nate Freiman hit a two-run blast out on the jet stream to right-center to give Houston a 3-2 lead in the 7th. First runs allowed by Soriano this Spring. The new Nats' closer retired the next three Astros in order, but Houston was ahead 3-2 after six and a half. Steve Lombardozzi and Corey Brown on singles and Tyler Moore on a fielder's choice, all reached safely to start the Nationals' seventh and Micah Owings, who entered today's game 6 for 18 w/ three doubles and a HR this Spring, hit an opposite field Grand Slam to right field off John Ely to give the Nationals a 6-3 lead in the seventh.
Nats' right-hander Henry Rodriguez came out for the top of the eighth. Chris Marrero caught a foul pop off Astros' catcher Carlos Perez's bat for out no.1. Rodriguez issued a one-out walk to 29-year-old Houston outfielder Trevor Crowe, who stole second with Che-Hsuan Lin at the plate, but the Nats' flame throwing right hander got Lin looking for out no.2 and got a groundout to third from Jake Elmore to end a scoreless eighth. The Nationals came up empty against RHP Jose Valdez in the bottom of the frame, and took a three-run lead into the top of the ninth.
Tyler Clippard came on in the Astros' ninth. Brandon Laird flew to left for out no.1 Nate Freiman K'd looking. Two. And Clippard got infielder Jose Martinez flew out to Corey Brown to end the game. 6-3 Nationals.