Washington Nationals' right-hander Dan Haren threw a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the first vs the Houston Astros this afternoon in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium. After 'Stros' starter Lucas Harrell retired the first three Nats he faced: Denard Span, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, the Nationals' 32-year-old fifth starter returned to the mound for the second inning of his second start this Spring. Brett Wallace, Justin Maxwell and J.D. Martinez were the fourth, fifth and sixth-straight batters set down by the former Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland A's and St. Louis Cardinals' starter who signed a 1-year/$13M dollar deal with Washington this winter. The thirteen pitches Haren threw in the second had him at 23 pitches total after two innings vs Houston.
Lucas Harrell matched the Nats' starter with 2.0 scoreless innings of his own, striking out both Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond around a line out to left by Adam LaRoche in the bottom of the second. Astros' catcher Carlos Corporan collected the first hit of the game off Haren when he singled to right to start the top of the third. A fly to right from 23-year-old Miami Marlins' '07 1st Round pick Matt Dominguez and a groundout to first by DH Marwin Gonzalez followed, but Tyler Greene walked with two down and Jose Altuve went down (pitch must have been REAL low) for a splitter from Haren and lined to left for an RBI single and a 1-0 Astros' lead after two and a half.
Danny Espinosa was 7 for 20 with a double, two walks and six Ks this Spring after singling to center off Harrell to start the Nationals' third. Two outs later, the Nats' second baseman was still standing at first, so he stole second with Denard Span at the plate, reaching safely without a throw when Carlos Corporan dropped the pitch. Span took a two-out walk from the Astros' right-handed starter, and Espinosa scored from second when Jayson Werth got an RBI grounder under Matt Dominguez's glove at third. 1-1 game. Bryce Harper grounded out to end the third, leaving the 20-year-old outfielder 0 for 2 today and 9 for 18 in Grapefruit Leauge action.
Zach Duke took over for the Nationals in the fourth and picked up where Haren left off after: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 50 pitches and 34 strikes. Duke set Brett Wallace, Justin Maxwell and J.D. Martinez down in order in his first inning of work today and fourth this Spring. Ryan Zimmerman was 0 for 2 with 2 Ks today after he was punched out on a check-swing strike three for Harrell's fourth K. Adam LaRoche singled to center with one down, but he was doubled up on a grouder to short by Ian Desmond as Harrell completed his fourth inning of work. Still 1-1 in Space Coast Stadium.
Danny Espinosa fielded a grounder from Carlos Corporan behind second and made a strong throw to Adam LaRoche at first for Zach Dukes' fourth-straight out after taking over for Haren. Matt Dominguez rolled one out to short. Grounder. Desmond. Out. Two down. Duke walked Astros' DH Marwin Gonzalez with two down, but Kurt Suzuki cut Gonzalez down when the runner tried to take second. 1-1 in the 5th. 28-year-old right-hander Hector Ambriz took over for Houston in the bottom of the inning. Kurt Suzuki singled on a grounder back to the mound and off the 'Stros reliever and the Nats' catcher scored from first when Chad Tracy doubled to left field in the next at bat. 2-1 Nationals after five. Tracy's 1 for 2 today and 3 for 15 with two doubles and a home run this Spring.
Grounder. Desmond. Out. Zach Duke got a groundout to short from Tyler Greene to start the top of the sixth. Jose Altuve hit a ground-rule double to left on the first pitch of his second at bat today, leaving him 2 for 3 vs the Nats and 6 for 19 in Grapefruit League action. Chris Carter K'd swinging for Duke's second strikeout in 2.2 IP. Danny Espinosa fielded a grounder to the mound that bounced off Duke's glove and still managed to throw to first in time to get former Yankees' prospect Brandon Laird to end the Astros' sixth.
Ryan Zimmerman reached first safely when Astros' shortstop Tyler Greene dropped Zim's grounder to short. Houston lefty Wesley Wright walked Adam LaRoche in the next at bat, ending a short outing. Former Nats' prospect Brad Peacock took over with two on and gave up a base-loading single by Ian Desmond. Zach Walters ran for Desmond at first. Chris Marrero was already on to run for LaRoche. Danny Espinosa worked the count full and lined to center to drive in two runs and make it a 4-1 Nats' lead. A HBP on Kurt Suzuki reloaded the bases and a sac fly to right by Chad Tracy gave Washington a 5-1 lead. Corey Brown drove in two more runs, one on what was probably an error by Justin Maxwell in center. One RBI for Brown, 7-1 Nationals after six.
Justin Maxwell just missed greeting Rafael Soriano with a home run when he flew out to Corey Brown in deep center in Soriano's first at bat of the Spring. The new Nats' closer gave up a one-out single by J.D. Martinez, but with Astros' outfielder Robbie Grossman at the plate, pinch runner Brandon Barnes was caught stealing for out no.2 of the seventh and Grossman K'd swinging for out no.3. Tyler Clippard retired the Astros in order in the top of the eighth, striking out two in a quick inning of work.
Anthony Rendon worked the count full in his first at bat of the game which came in the bottom of the eighth vs Astros' lefty Brett Oberholtzer, who'd walked the first two batters he faced, Will Rhymes and Kurt Suzuki. Rendon K'd swinging to leave the 22-year-old, 2011 1st Round pick 7 for 17 so far in Spring Training. Another Astros' lefty, Sergio Escalona, took over for Oberholtzer with Corey Brown at the plate and retired Brown, who grounded to first, and Tyler Moore, who K'd looking to end the eighth.
Jeremy Accardo retired the Astros in order in the ninth and the Nats took this one, 7-1 final.