Max Scherzer tossed two scoreless innings against the Houston Astros in the Grapefruit League opener last Saturday, but the game was eventually cancelled after rain wouldn’t stop falling in The FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Going up against the defending American League champions tonight in the teams’ shared home in West Palm Beach, FL, the 35-year-old, three-time Cy Young award-winner gave up one walk, threw a wild pitch, and had a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman (on a potential inning-ending double play) and a weak fly to right field which fell in for an RBI hit hurt him as the Astros put two runs up early on the Nationals’ ace, 2-0 after a 1/2-inning.
It was 2-1 in the Astros’ favor when Scherzer returned to the mound in the top of the second inning and retired the side in order, striking out two batters in an 11-pitch frame that left him at 38 pitches overall.
Scherzer was up to six-straight set down after he struck Jeremy Pena out with a nasty changeup for the first out of the third, but a Yuli Gurriel single to center snapped that streak before a 5-6-3 DP on a one-hopper into the right side shift ended an 11-pitch frame, 49 total, 5 Ks.
POWER UP: Adam Eaton powered up and crushed a hanging changeup up in the zone from Astros’ righty, Cristian Javier, hitting a solo home run to right to lead off the home-half of the first inning, and he just missed hitting a second blast the second time up in the third, hitting one just foul but well over the right field fence. Eaton, 31, hit a career-high 15 home runs last season, and apparently he’s still got his power swing working.
Eaton settled for a double in his second at bat, lining a full-count fastball low and away from Astros’ righty Jared Hughes into the left-center gap, 2 for 2, HR, 2B.
Juan Soto walked one out later, after a groundout moved Eaton up, and Howie Kendrick hit a ground ball to short to bring in the tying run, 2-2.
Bullpen Action: Austen Williams worked around leadoff and two-out walks and a wild pitch for a scoreless fourth after he took over for Scherzer on the mound.
Roenis Elías got George Springer looking with a 1-2 breaking ball, got Jeremy Pena to chase a 2-2 changeup out of the zone low, got to a 3-2 count with Yuli Gurriel, but “missed” with a fastball inside, issuing a two-out walk, and then stranded the only runner to reach base in a scoreless, 21-pitch top of the fifth when Abraham Toro lined out to second base.
Wilmer Difo tripled off Astros’ righty Cy Sneed and scored the go-ahead run, 3-2, on an RBI single to center by Asdrúbal Cabrera in the home-half of the fifth, and Eaton, who’d walked, scored on an RBI groundout by Juan Soto, 4-2.
Sam Freeman struck out two batters in a scoreless top of the sixth inning to keep it a two-run game.
Yadiel Hernandez doubled and Emilio Bonifacio singled to drive in the Nationals’ fifth run of the game, 5-2.
Wander Suero needed 12 pitches to get three outs in the top of the seventh inning, getting two groundouts to first base around a pop to first baseman Drew Ward.
Aaron Barrett gave up a leadoff walk and RBI double in the first two at bats of the eighth, 5-3, and a run scored on a groundout as well, 5-4, before Ross Adolph doubled to left field to put the potential tying run on second with two out, and Jake Meyers tied it up with a single to center, 5-5.
Fernando Abad kept it tied with a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the ninth, and Astros’ righty Carlos Sanabria’s scoreless bottom of the inning left the score tied...