Two pitches into this afternoon's exhibition with the Minnesota Twins, the Washington Nationals and right-hander Joe Ross were down 1-0 after Brian Dozier hit an 0-1 sinker out to left-center for his fourth home run of the Spring.
Four batters into the bottom of the first, however, the Nationals were up 3-1 on the Twins and Ricky Nolasco after a two-run blast to deep left by Ryan Zimmerman and a solo shot into the Red Porch seats by Daniel Murphy put the Nationals ahead.
Ross was 24 pitches into the third, at 52 pitches overall, with runners on the corners and one out, when he left a 3-2 slider up in the zone outside for Joe Mauer, who hit a three-run blast into the left field/visitor's bullpen. 4-3 Twins.
A two-out double by Eddie Rosario drove in the fifth run of the game for the Twins, 5-3, but he was thrown out at third for out no.3 of a 35-pitch frame that left Ross at 63 pitches overall after three.
Michael Taylor made it a one-run game again when he crushed a 3-1 fastball from Nolasco, sending a screamer out to left for his 5th HR of the Spring and his 24th hit in 52 at bats so far in games that don't count in 2016.
Danny Espinosa tied it up at 5-5 in the fifth when he hit a 90 mph, 2-0 fastball from Nolasco out to right-center over the GEICO wall for the Nationals' fourth home run of the game and his second home run of the Spring.
The Twins loaded the bases with one out in the in the fifth and Eddie Rosario cleared them with a triple to right on a 2-1 sinker up in the zone from Ross, putting Minnesota up again, 8-5.
Ben Revere singled in his first at bat of the game in the seventh, went first-to-third on a single to right by Chris Heisey and scored on a single by Scott Sizemore that made it 8-6.
Jose Lobaton beat out an infield single in the eighth, and scored two outs later on a bloop single to left by Revere, 8-7.
Chris Heisey found out he was making the Opening Day roster last night. This afternoon, he homered to tie it up at 8-8 in the ninth inning.
• Dusty Baker talked before yesterday's game about which of his hitters were hot going into these final two exhibition games. He mentioned a number of players, and singled out the Nationals' first baseman, Ryan Zimmerman.
"I'll tell you, who's really hot is Zim," Baker said. "That was a pleasure to see him, especially in that RBI spot."
Zimmerman started late, with his disdain for Spring Training at bats a long-held opinion (and he was taking it slow with his assorted physical issues), but he heated up as he piled up at bats, finishing last night's game 13 for 40 overall this Spring with two doubles and three home runs in 13 games.
He hit HR no.4 of the Spring in the bottom of the first today, taking a first-pitch fastball for a ride to left field for a big two-run home run. #TKCHZ
• Michael Taylor got the start in center today. Dusty Baker has previously explained how things will work when he does give Jayson Werth time off this season and puts Taylor in the starting lineup, though it was Ben Revere sitting today.
"I don't want to move everybody in the outfield around all the time," Baker explained in an MLB Network Radio interview last month.
"So on days that Jayson wouldn't play, then I'd put Ben Revere in left and Michael in center.
"Revere is an outstanding center fielder, he just doesn't have the arm strength like Michael Taylor has, so I'd probably move him that way and [Bryce Harper] is going to play most days, so, like I said, that's a very valuable asset to have."
Taylor got the start in center today, after Revere started the next-to-last exhibition game last night. Baker said this morning that he just wanted to try out different lineups and scenarios to get everyone ready.
"Michael Taylor, like I said, he's a starter that's not starting," Baker told reporters. "So I started Michael Taylor and Ben will go in to left field later in the game for Jayson Werth.
"I'm try to use the different scenarios that might happen during the game at some point in time. And then have him play left too. You can't all of a sudden -- if Werth's not playing -- just throw him out there."
Taylor singled in his first at bat this afternoon, improving to 23 for 51 so far this Spring, and he scored one out later when Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run blast to left off Twins' starter Ricky Nolasco.
• Taylor improved to 24 for 52 after he crushed a 3-1 fastball from Nolasco and hit a bomb-shot of a home run to left to make it a one-run game in the third, 5-4 Twins.
• Joe Ross wasn't particularly sharp (yes, that's a kind description), and he did give up 12 hits and eight earned runs today, but he also collected eight Ks and didn't walk anyone... He was done for the day after 95 pitches, 65 of them strikes.
Ross vs the Twins: 5.0 IP, 12H, 8R, 8ER, 0BB, 8Ks, 2 HR, 95 P, 65 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
• Rafael Martin set the Twins down in order in a quick, 14-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth.
• Trea Turner singled on a dribbler toward third with two down in the sixth and stole second base easily (8 for 8 this Spring), but was stranded there.
• Oliver Perez came on for a lefty-vs-lefty matchup with Oswaldo Arcia with one out and no one on, but walked him and gave up a single in the next at bat before Baker went to the pen for Nick Masset, who got the Nats out of the inning without further damage.
• Ben Revere came on late in the game and went 2 for 2.
• Trevor Gott worked in and out of trouble in a scoreless, 22-pitch ninth.
• Real games start Monday...