• Today's Top 5:
5. DWL Legend: Yunesky Maya gave up a solo HR to Astros' leadoff man Michael Bourn (who hit 2 HR's all of last season) four pitches into this afternoon's start, but that was the only run the Cuban-born Nats' right-hander allowed, though he had runners on in each inning and was yanked after a two-out walk in the third. Garrett Mock replaced Maya and got the final out of the inning, stranding two runners when he popped Houston third baseman Chris Johnson up to end the frame.
4. Roger Bernadina Wants To Play: Inserted into the lineup as the leadoff man and center fielder today, Nats' outfielder Roger Bernadina got off to a good start, bunting for a base hit and then stealing second in the bottom of the first inning. The Curacao-born outfielder moved to third on a wild pitch but was stranded there when Danny Espinosa, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth went down in order. Bernadina's second at bat against Astros' starter J.A. Happ came in the second when he stepped to the plate with two down and the bases loaded and patiently worked a walk to force in a run. Nyjer Morgan better be worried. Bernadina's patience in taking the two-out walk really payed off in the next AB, however, when Danny Espinosa followed with a two-out, two-run single to put the Nats up 3-1. Bernadina ended the day 1 for 2 with an RBI, walk and a K.
• Postgame Tweet: @NationalsPR: "Roger Bernadina is 5-for-14 (.357) w/ one homer, 5 RBI & 2 SB in 6 games this spring. He's also dropped down 3 very nice bunts."
3. It Isn't Easy Being Mock: Catcher's inteference by a future Hall of Fame catcher. A fielding error by Michael Morse in right on what should have been the second out of the fourth and could have been a double play according to what some said on the Twitter. It isn't easy being Garrett Mock. The Nats' right-hander, acquired along with Matt Chico in an '06 deal that sent Livan Hernandez to Arizona, has struggled with his location for several years now, struggled to cut down on walks and struggled to become a consistent starter at the major league level. After he had issues again in his first outing of the Spring last week, Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman was quoted in an article by WTOP's Craig Heist entitled, "Nats lose first spring game to St. Louis", saying the same thing every person who's watched him at his best says every time Mock gets lit up or struggles to locate his pitches:
"'The quality of stuff he has, you have to try and be patient with him because the arm is there and the breaking stuff is there."
Just how patient the Nats plan to be should be clear relatively soon. It was back-to-back walks that really cost Mock today though, and there's no one to blame for those but himself, or maybe the Ump, but no one was complaining about today's strike zone. After limiting the damage cause by Pudge and Morse in the fourth, allowing just one run to cross which made it 3-2 Nats, Mock put Hunter Pence and Brett Wallace on with back-to-back walks and Chris Johnson followed with a 3-run blast that puts the Astros ahead 5-3 and ended Mock's day.
2. Bryce Harper's Monday: Bryce Harper took what the Houston announcers described as a "vicious swing" at the first pitch he saw when he stepped to the plate following an Alex Cora single in the eighth, and Harper doubled into right field off 22-year-old Astros' right-hander Pat Urckfitz to move Cora around to third. Harper scored two outs later when Brian Bixler cleared the bases Jesus Flores loaded by taking a one-out walk after Kevin Barker K'd and before Derek Norris went down swinging. 8-8 game after Harper, Cora and Flores score, and 10-8 Nats after Rick Ankiel's solo dinger brought Bixler in, put Washington ahead and chased Urckfitz.
Harper got a second AB in the eighth as the Nats batted around and took a 11-8 lead. This time it was the 18-year-old Harper at the plate vs 23-year-old Dominican righty Jorge de Leon on the hill and the Astros' announcer described Harper's swing as a "wild hack" when he doubled in two runs and put the Nats up 13-8 on his second RBI two-bagger of the inning. The Nats scored nine runs total in the ninth with Kevin Barker driving Harper in to give Washington a 14-8 lead in what ended up a 14-9 win after right-hander Ryan Mattheus finally closed out the ninth.
1. Astros Interested in Jesus...Flores: The Houston Astros planned on having former Stanford Cardinal catcher and '08 1st Round pick Jason Castro behind the plate this season before he suffered a knee injury that will cost him most if not all of the 2011 campaign. The injury has Houston scrambling for a major-league ready backstop who's available either now or at the end of Spring Training when rosters are settled as Houston Chronicle writer Steve Campbell quoted 'Stros' GM Drayton McLane saying in an article this morning entitled, "Astros revisit catching variables":
"It's hard to make a trade now," McLane said. "Most teams are assessing where they are. But at the end of spring training, we're certainly going to look at what we do at the start of the season. "
MASN's Ben Goessling wrote this morning, in an article entitled, "Nationals lineup for Monday vs. Astros and a catching note", that a source he'd spoken to said the Astros, "... have asked their scouts to take a look this week at Jesus Flores," and later in the afternoon, MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in an article entitled, "Astros taking look at Flores", wrote that a "baseball source" of his was saying the same, "The Astros are looking at Jesus Flores as a possible replacement for Jason Castro." Houston, however, as expected, "...is concerned about Flores' right shoulder." Will a successful Spring be enough to convice teams looking for backstop help that the 26-year-old catcher is worth the risk?
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