It wasn’t exactly the Washington Nationals’ expected everyday regulars out there today in sunny West Palm Beach, Florida, but there was baseball to watch, and there were some bench players in the starting lineup, and some young pitchers out there on the mound in the 2018 Grapefruit League opener, which the defending World Series champion Houston Astros won, 3-2.
Tommy Milone got the start and put together two solid innings of work.
Andrew Stevenson connected for the first hit of the Spring for the Nationals. First base prospect Jose Marmolejos put a nice swing on a fastball and drove in a run.
Victor Robles made a nice diving catch in center field in the sixth, and doubled to left field in the seventh.
After a long winter, it was nice to see baseball again, regardless. Here’s what we saw in the first game of the Spring...
Don’t call’em bench players: Nationals’ skipper Dave Martinez talked up his bench earlier in the week when he spoke to reporters about the roster Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo assembled as Washington goes for a third straight NL East crown.
“We’ve got an unbelievable lineup with speed and power, so we can be creative and do a lot of different things,” Martinez said, “and you look at our role players, Howie [Kendrick], Matt Adams, [Wilmer] Difo, Goody [Brian Goodwin], the list goes on. We’ve got guys who can probably play on an everyday basis, so I’m really excited to see these guys play.”
Goodwin, Difo, Adams, and Kendrick hit 1-4 in the Nationals’ lineup this afternoon in the Grapefruit League opener in West Palm Beach, FL.
Howie Kendrick worked a walk in a patient at bat to start the Nationals’ half of the second inning, yeah!, (after the top three went down in order vs Astros’ righty Rogelio Arementeros in the first), then Kendrick got picked off first base. Boo! It was not even close.
Dramatic Overreaction: Bring back Davey Lopes!!!!
Kendrick walked in his second plate appearances as well, taking a two-out free pass in the top of the fourth (after Brian Goodwin walked to start the frame), but Astros’ lefty Reymin Guduan stranded both runners.
Tommy Milone Notes: In camp competing for the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation, lefty Tommy Milone, who turned 31 seven days back, was, of course, a 2008 Nats’ 10th Round pick out of USC, who debuted in the majors in 2011 before he was dealt to the Oakland A’s as part of the package that brought Gio Gonzalez to the nation’s capital.
Milone signed a Minor League deal with Washington this winter and got off to a good start in Spring Training, throwing two scoreless on 26 pitches, striking out three and working around a one-out walk in the first, with a 1-4-3 (though he bounced the throw to second) to get him out of the only trouble he found himself in today.
If you haven’t seen him before, he’s not overpowering (he averaged 88-90 mph with his fastball in 2017), but he threw strikes today, and got two clean innings of work in against some major leaguers in the Astros’ lineup.
Son of Kevin: Jaron Long, the son of new Nationals’ hitting coach Kevin Long, got off to a rough start in his first Grapefruit League outing, hitting the first batter he faced before leaving a fastball up in the zone for Astros’ catcher Max Stassi, who hit a two-run shot to left field to put Houston up 2-0 in the third in FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Long came back out with a quick, 1-2-3 fourth, throwing 32 pitches total with six straight set down to end his outing.
Hair on fire: Andrew Stevenson, who was inserted into the lineup late when Ryan Raburn was scratched as a precaution with a sore left side, connected for the Nationals’ first hit this Spring, lining a one-out double to right field in the fifth off Astros’ right-hander Matt Ramsey. Stevenson scored on an RBI single to right by Chris Dominguez, 2-1 ‘Stros.
Dominguez scored on an opposite field single to left by PH Jose Marmolejos, who put a nice swing on an 0-1 fastball outside to drive in the tying run, 2-2.
It wasn’t tied for long. Astros’ third baseman J.D. Davis put the defending World Series champs back on top with a solo shot to left field (with the wind) that cleared the fence, making it a 3-2 game in the home team’s favor after five.
Brady Dragmire, who pitched for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators last season, gave up the Davis’ home run.
Plus, Plus Defender: Nationals’ prospect Victor Robles, who was ranked the top defensive outfielder in the minors by MLB Pipeline this winter, showed off the range, speed, and the glove in the sixth, getting a good jump on a liner to the left of center by Astros’ outfielder Kyle Tucker and made a diving catch for the second out of the home-half of the inning.
Nice range, Robles.
Wander-ing: Wander Suero, 26, split the 2017 campaign between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse in the Nationals’ system, posting a 1.96 ERA, 3.14 FIP, five walks (1.96 BB/9), and 23 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 23 innings with the Senators and a 1.70 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 14 walks (2.98 BB/9), and 42 Ks (8.93 K/9) in 42 1⁄3 IP for the Chiefs.
He was added to the Nationals’ 40-man roster in November, and made his 2017 Grapefruit League debut in the seventh inning today, going to a full count with each of three batters he faced before striking them out in an 18-pitch frame.
No radar on the broadcast, but he was throwing hard and had some fastball and breaking bacll movement working for him against the three right-handed batters he did face in the scoreless frame.
Tim Collins threw a quick, 13-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth inning, but the Nationals’ offense came up empty in the ninth. Final Score: 3-2 Astros.