The Nats busted a two-game losing streak today as the offense came alive and shellacked the Mets, 11-5, on the strength of seven runs in the eighth inning. The game featured some great showings by prospects, which is, as always, the real story in any Spring Training game.
Gio Gonzalez started the game, allowing just one hit and striking out one in two scoreless innings in his Spring Training debut. He faced a split-squad Mets team that was composed mainly of non-roster invitees and few MLB regulars, so anything but mowing them down would have been concerning, but he seemed as sharp as ever.
Speaking of concerning, lefty Matt Purke got beaten up again today, giving up five hits, a walk, and three runs in two innings. The good news here is that it lowered his Spring Training ERA from 27.00 to 18.90. The bad news is that he is starting to look more and more like a non-prospect. He was named MLB.com’s No. 6 Nationals prospect today, but they might want a do-over on that ranking given how he’s pitched. Once again, it’s just two Spring Training games, but for a guy who really needed to prove himself, this is a disaster.
Although most of the offense came late in the game from minor leaguers, the big boys had solid offensive days too. Ian Desmond pounded a solo homer, and is now hitting .400 with two home runs in four games this preseason. Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Wilson Ramos were all 1-2 today, with Harper notching his first hit of the spring.
A few big league relievers got in the game as well. Tyler Clippard was strong in his spring debut, allowing a hit and striking out one in a scoreless inning. Jerry Blevins continued to make a strong impression, allowing no hits for the second straight outing, while Craig Stammen allowed a run for his second consecutive appearance.
Late in the game, the youngsters put on a firework show. Brian Goodwin showed some pop with a towering two-run shot in the seventh, and Sandy Leon and Matt Skole hit round-trippers the next inning. Skole has shown no rust after missing almost all of the 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery, slashing .364/.417/.818 in 11 at-bats this spring. A strong year at AA in 2014 might lead to him taking the first base job if Adam LaRoche is not retained after this year. Skole has been a bit strikeout-prone in his few at bats, with six and just one walk, but this should not be a concern, as he has a career 1.31 K/BB ratio in the minors.
-Zach Walters was scratched from this game with flu-like symptoms after having been written into the starting lineup at second base. He is 6-7 on the spring, and is making a run at Danny Espinosa’s job. The Nats would be unwise to promote Walters based only on this Spring Training, but Espinosa has been 0-10, and while he is a defensive wizard and Walters is less defensively capable, he may have a short leash if he struggles in April.
-Sandy Leon was 2-2 including his three-run homer, and is hitting .500 in his four spring at-bats. It’s a tiny and most likely meaningless sample, but the Nats would love to have Leon emerge and take the AAA starting job from Jhonatan Solano, who has been less than inspiring in his major league appearances and is just a Wilson Ramos injury away from the backup job.
-This game was at Space Coast Stadium, the Nationals’ home during Spring Training, but was only available via the Mets’ radio broadcast. Why on earth is that the case? If the teams’ radio and TV crews are going to be in Florida, why not have them do all the games? I just want a Nats slant on my exhibition baseball.