After a scoreless opening frame, Washington Nationals' 21-game winning, 27-year-old left-hander Gio Gonzalez threw 13 of the 50 pitches he was expected to throw this afternoon in the bottom of the first of this afternoon's Grapefruit League game against the Houston Astros. After today's start the Nats' lefty will join Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Gonzalez gave up a one-out single by Jose Altuve and a two-out double by Astros' outfielder Chris Carter before he got Justin Maxwell swinging with a 1-2 curve for out no.2 and got a grounder to short from J.D. Martinez for the third out of the frame. Grounder. Desmond. Out. Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond was the fifth of six straight batters set down by Astros' starter Philip Humber, who threw two scoreless to start today's game in Kissimmee, Florida's Osceola County Stadium.
Gio Gonzalez was quickly back on the mound in the second, giving up a leadoff single by hard-hitting 'Stros' DH Nate Freiman, but the Nats' lefty then got a pop to second from Brandon Laird for out no.1 and a grounder to third from catcher Carlos Corporan that started a 5-4-3 inning-ending DP which ended an 8-pitch frame. 21-pitches after two scoreless by the Nationals' left-hander. Nats' outfielder Corey Brown broke up Philip Humber's no-hit bid in the third with a two-out double that fell in fair down the line in left, but Brown was stranded at second when Denard Span lined out to center to end the top of the third.
Gio Gonzalez walked Astros' third baseman Matt Dominguez in the first at bat of the Houston third. Three batters, 21 pitches and two strikeouts later, Gonzalez was through his fourth scoreless. 42 pitches total for Gonzalez, three hits, one walk, three Ks. Bryce Harper walked with one down in the fourth to give the Nats their second baserunner on the day vs Humber, but Wilson Ramos grounded to third in the next at bat and the Astros turned a 5-4-3 inning-ender of their own. Ross Ohlendorf's turn in the bottom of the fourth. One-out single by J.D. Martinez. Then DH Nate Freiman grounds to Chad Tracy at third, Danny Espinosa at second and on to Tyler Moore. Another 5-4-3. 0-0 after four.
Right-hander Chia-Jen Lo took over for the Astros in the fifth. Chad Tracy hit a one-out double to right field and the veteran bench bat was replaced by Anthony Rendon at second. The Nats' 22-year-old infielder got aggressive on the basepaths, trying to take third on a Tyler Moore grounder to third baseman Matt Dominguez, but the Astros were ready and the shortstop was covering, so Houston turned a rare 5-3-6 inning-ending DP when Rendon got thrown out at third. 0-0 after four and half in Kissimmee, Florida.
Ross Ohlendorf completed his second scoreless inning of work in the bottom of the fifth. Brandon Laird singled to start the frame and Ohlendorf hit Carlos Corporan, but the next three Houston hitters went down in order to leave it scoreless after five between the Astros and Nats. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel took over in the top of the sixth. A high two-out chopper by Denard Span got over first and lodged itself under the tarp in right field for a ground-rule double. Span, who was 1 for 3 today after the hit and 3 for 16 in eight games this Spring, was replaced by pinch runner MIchael Taylor, but a groundout to third ended the top of the inning.
Ross Ohlendorf walked Carlos Pena to start the bottom of the sixth. Fernando Martinez lined a double off the right field wall in the next at bat to put runners on second and third with one down for Rick Ankiel, whose groundout to second advanced both runners for a 1-0 lead. Martinez then scored from third on a sac fly by Marc Krauss to make it 2-0 Astros after six in the Astros' Spring home.
Dallas Keuchel gave up a broken-bat, one-out single by Wilson Ramos in the top of the seventh. One out later, Anthony Rendon stepped in for his first at bat of the day and popped out to second. 2-0 Astros after six and half. The pop out left Rendon 8 for 21 so far this Spring. Drew Storen took over in the bottom of the frame. Robbie Grossman worked the count but popped to left to end a seven-pitch AB. Brett Wallace K'd swinging at a diving 2-2 slider from Storen for out no.2. Astros' infielder Jonathan Villar sent a grounder back up the middle and beat out an infield single in spite of a strong throw from Zach Walters to first. Marwin Gonzalez singled to right, sending Villar around to third and pushing Storen to 20 pitches. Carlos Pena worked the count full to get Storen up to 25, but a check-swing strike three ended a 26-pitch frame.
Matt Skole's leadoff, ground-rule double off Dallas Keuchel left the Nats' 2012 Minor League Player of the Year 3 for 16 with two doubles in 11 Spring Training games. Skole took third when Carlos Pena botched a grounder to first and let Sandy Leon on. That ended Keuchel's day. Carlos Rivero faced Astros' right-hander Josh Zeid with runners on the corners and walked on four straight pitches to load the bases for Nats' 21-year-old, '09 6th Round pick Michael Taylor, whose two-run single through short tied the game at 2-2 after seven and half in Osceola County Stadium. The Nationals failed to score any more runs in spite of having two on with no outs, however, as Zeid pitched his way out of trouble.
Ryan Mattheus took the mound in the Astros' eighth, and promptly surrendered a single by Fernando Martinez. Former Nat Rick Ankiel's line drive single to right sent Martinez around to third. Runners on the corners, 0 outs. Mattheus got a swinging K from Marc Krauss for out no.1, but Rick Ankiel pulled a delayed steal with catcher Jason Castro at the plate, and with runners on second and third and the infield drawn in, a chopper Castro over second scored two runs to make it 4-2 Houston.
Astros' right-hander Paul Clemens gave up a leadoff single to center by Zach Walters in the top of the ninth. Anthony Rendon stepped in for his second at bat and K'd swinging at a 1-2 heater upstairs. (8 for 22 for Rendon). Matt Skole had an 0-2 bender from Clemens drop in for a called strike three. 2 outs, and a foul-tip strike three on Sandy Leon ended the game. 4-2 Astros final.