Today the Nationals reminisced on the days when Bo Porter aggressively ran third base as the Nationals base coach, when he got in a screaming match with Cubs bench coach Jim Quirk, and when he was able to celebrate as a National when they won the NL East crown. Now, Bo Porter's Astros visited his former Nationals team at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL. According to Dan Kolko of MASN's Nationals Pastime, Porter was greeted with hugs as he walked around batting practice prior to the Spring Training game. Porter doesn't feel any different though, "I have a lot of friends over here," Porter said. "Lot of friends, lot of great relationships. It's not like we're being reunited because we all keep in contact constantly throughout the offseason and even leading up to today."
Dan Haren, not part of Bo Porter’s Nats last season started today against the now American League Houston Astros. Haren went 3 strong innings, mixing in a good curve and sinker as he produced numerous groundouts and 2 strikeouts allowing 1 ER. Opposed by second year pitcher Lucas Harrell, Haren was matched through those 3 innings as Harrell dazzled against a heavy hitting lineup giving up 1 ER on 3 hits with 4 K’s.
Nationals’ pitchers stymied the Astros all afternoon in Porter’s return, reminding their former coach of the team’s outstanding pitching and solid hitting. Rafael Soriano made his first appearance of the spring as he, Zach Duke, Tyler Clippard, and team hopeful Jeremy Accardo combined for 6 innings of scoreless ball accumulating a combined 6 Astros.
The hitting came alive in the 6th as the Nats put a 5 spot on the board against second year pitcher Wesley Wright and former Nationals prospect Brad Peacock. Danny Espinosa stole the show with a 2-3 night with 2 RBI, 1 run scored, and a stolen base. Chad Tracy also drove in 2 as the Nationals went on to beat Bo Porter’s team 7-1.
Despite the drubbing Porter’s Astros took, Nationals manager Davey Johnson had nothing but words of praise to describe Porter. Kolko reported, "He's the perfect man for the job." Johnson said. "He's very fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game, and he's a great judge of talent. So I look for him to be there a long time."
Porter has work to do in Houston and with new management above him, as the team looks to rebuild to match not only the American League norm, but the major leagues too. Porter admitted "rebuilding" wasn’t in his vocabulary, but he is without a doubt aware of the challenges ahead. With the youngest team and lowest active payroll in the league (second baseman Jose Altuve is the highest paid) the Astros will look to avoid yet another 100-loss season.
As for the Nationals, they move forward with a team whose starters have given up a combined 15 ER over the first 10 games, there is no doubt that the Nationals have the pieces for a repeat, and then some. Jim Bowden said it right today on "Inside Pitch", look for a Tigers-Nationals World Series with Rafael Soriano at closer being the deciding factor.
Up next, the Nationals will play the NL East rival Phillies at 1:05 pm at Brighthouse Field in Clearwater, FL.