Max Scherzer struck out three of the nine batters he faced in his 2019 Grapefruit League debut. Anthony Rendon hit a homer in his second at bat of the Spring. Aaron Barrett got back on the mound for the Nationals. Spencer Kieboom hit a three-run blast, and his l’il brother Carter Kieboom doubled the first time up, then walked to start the bottom of the ninth before scoring on a walk-off single by Adrian Sanchez, 7-6 final in West Palm Beach.
Welcome back, baseball! Here’s what happened...
MAT in CF: Davey Martinez told reporters earlier this week that Michael A. Taylor dealt with hip flexor and an oblique issues this winter, when he went to get at bats/work on his swing in the Dominican Winter League, but the manager said Taylor was fine now that he’d rested up, and was all set to get going in Spring Training action.
“He’s good,” Martinez said. “As a matter of fact, I saw him today and he looks really good. To give you a heads up, he’ll play center field on Saturday.”
Taylor, in camp battling for the center field job with rookie outfielder Victor Robles, is trying to change things up a bit at the plate in an attempt to generate more contact after he had an underwhelming season in 2018 which saw him put up a .227/.287/.357 line, 22 doubles, six home runs, 29 walks, and 116 strikeouts in 134 games and 385 plate appearances total, over which he posted 71 wRC+ and was worth 0.9 fWAR.
Martinez said he liked what he saw from the 27-year-old outfielder early this Spring.
“What I like is that he shortened his stride and his swing is a lot shorter, and if we can keep him right there — the power is going to be there,” the manager said.
“He’s just a strong kid, for me it’s just getting him to put the ball in play. That’s the key for him, is just making contact, put the ball in play and use all his tools.”
In his first Grapefruit League game of the Spring, Taylor popped out on a 2-2 fastball up in the zone. “Not a bad at bat,” FP Santangelo said on MASN’s broadcast of the game.
Taylor popped out on the first pitch he saw in his second at bat, and he was done for the night after that at bat.
Howie at 2nd: Howie Kendrick’s season ended prematurely when he blew out his achilles in mid-May. Kendrick rehabbed throughout the rest of the 2018 campaign and winter and then showed up at camp ready to go for the second year of the 2-year/$7M deal he signed back in January of 2018.
Davey Martinez said once he saw Kendrick running around this Spring he bought into what he’d heard from the veteran infielder/outfielder, who’d been telling the manager he was set to go for 2019.
“It was the first day we ran the bases, and, man, he was getting after it,” Martinez said.
“There was no hesitation, there was no limping, he was in full force. And he made it a point to tell me again that he was ready, so I just said, ‘Hey, good, you’re playing second base Saturday, so he’s all excited about getting back on the field.”
Kendrick came up with a runner on in his first at bat of the Spring, but grounded out to third unproductively after Adam Eaton, who’d singled to start the Nationals’ first, stole second.
He went down chasing a 2-2 slider from Cy Sneed in his second at bat of the game, 0 for 2.
Max on the mound: Max Scherzer’s Grapefruit League campaign began with a homer to center by Jake Marisnick, who got all of a center-cut 2-2 fastball and sent it out to center field for a leadoff home run and a 1-0 Astros’ lead. It was a 96 mph heater though...
Scherzer dropped a backdoor, 2-2 slider on Derek Fisher in the next at bat, however.
Scherzer gave up three hits total, picked up two Ks (both on sliders), and finished the first with 25 pitches total when Aledmys Diaz got picked off third on a ball in the dirt.
Scherzer picked up a third strikeout in an 19-pitch second that left him at 44 total at the end of his first start of the Spring.
Spark Plug: Adam Eaton led off tonight, singled to center, stole second, and scored on a one-out RBI single to center field by Juan Soto, who picked up where he left off in 2018, putting Washington up 1-0 in the bottom of the first by sending the first pitch he saw from the Astros’ starter, Brady Rodgers, back up the middle.
Ross, Joe Ross: A two-out walk and subsequent single stretched Joe Ross’s Spring debut out a little longer than necessary, but the sinker-balling right-hander stranded both men who reached base in a scoreless 25-pitch frame.
A quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 second ended the outing for Ross after 36 pitches overall.
Rendon Homer: Anthony Rendon hit a 1-2 change inside out to left and over the outfield wall in the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, taking Cy Sneed deep after the Astros’ hurler had retired the first four batters he’d faced, all via strikeout, 2-1 Nationals.
. (\__/)— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) February 24, 2019
(•ㅅ•) Anthony Rendon
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/ `/ ⌒Ｙ⌒ Ｙ ヽ
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| ﾉ⌒＼ ￣￣ヽ ノ
｜( 王 ﾉ〈 (\__/)
/ﾐ`ー―彡\ (•ㅅ•) your favorite 3B pic.twitter.com/j5pEevhJRN
Bear: Aaron Barrett (remember him?) gave up a single and a walk to the first two batters he faced in the fifth inning (and he was up in the zone early in his outing), but he got a weak roller to first and picked up a K with a slider, before giving up a two-run single that put the Astros up, 3-2.
Henderson Alvarez gave up back-to-back, one-out singles, and a three-run home run (by Nick Tanielu) on an 0-1 fastball in consecutive at bats in the top of the sixth as the ‘Stros jumped out to a 6-2 lead.
Kieboom The Elder: Spencer Kieboom crushed a fastball from right-hander Jose Hernandez in the Nationals’ half of the sixth, hit a no-doubter of a three-run blast out to left to make it a one-run game, 6-5 Astros.
Kieboom The Younger: Carter Kieboom, Spencer’s younger brother, took a 3-1 fastball from the Astros’ righty (Hernandez again) to left-center for a leadoff double in the home seventh, took third on a wild pitch/ball in the dirt, but was stranded there three outs later as the Nats failed to bring him home.
Sammy Solis worked a scoreless, 1-2-3 inning in the top of the eighth, and the Nationals tied it up at 6-6 in the home-half of the frame when Adrian Sanchez walked, took second base a batter later (on a Chuck Taylor hit) and scored on an errant throw on a double play attempt.
Jimmy Cordero tossed a scoreless top of the ninth inning to keep it tied.
Carter Kieboom walked to start the bottom of the ninth, moved to second on a sac bunt by Hunter Jones, and scored on a two-out, walk-off hit to left by Adrian Sanchez, ballgame, 7-6.