Double the baseball, double the fun! The Nats took on their two biggest rivals simultaneously today, pulling out an 8-2 win over the Braves and tying the Cardinals 4-4. With two games for the same number of players, there was a much bigger stage for every player auditioning to make an impression.
Despite twice the playing time opportunities, the players who got the most exposure today were not the hitting prospects who have made names for themselves earlier in camp. Zach Walters, Brian Goodwin, Matt Skole, and Michael Taylor combined for six plate appearances, going 0-6.
Instead, many more of the Nats’ fringe prospects saw playing time today, including Stephen Perez, Isaac Ballou, Drew Vettleson, Jason Martinson, Destin Hood, and Tony Renda. Of those six, Martinson and Renda each notched hits, but Hood was the most impressive, blasting a three-run home run against the Cardinals. Hood, the Nats’ 2008 second round pick, was a popular prospect in 2011 after he had an .809 OPS at High A. But he has all but fallen off the map since then, with a .639 OPS in 2012 and a .605 mark repeating Double A last season.
Before the youngsters got into the game, most of the starters played well as well. Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, and Bryce Harper went a combined 6-12 against the Braves, scoring a run each. Anthony Rendon was 1-3 against St. Louis, and only Ian Desmond went hitless. Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos did not play.
The bench hitters continued to struggle, continuing an alarming trend from last season that contributed significantly to the Nats’ struggles. Nate McLouth and Scott Hairston were both 0-3 with two strikeouts, and Tyler Moore was 0-4. None of the three is hitting above .167 for Spring Training. The middle infielders fared somewhat better, as Danny Espinosa and Jeff Kobernus each notched a hit. However, the hit was only Espinosa’s second of the spring and raised his average to a paltry .143.
While the bats were mediocre, the beneficiaries of these somewhat low-scoring games were the pitchers. Ross Detwiler was unimpressive, giving up six hits and a run in two innings, but he allowed mainly weak contact that managed to find holes in the infield. The other starter, Chris Young, acquitted himself well by giving up just two hits and a run over three innings, though he has no shot at any role apart from Triple A insurance.
The young pitchers also stood out. AJ Cole gave up two hits in 2.2 innings, and Aaron Barrett tossed 1.1 perfect innings with two strikeouts against St. Louis. Against the Braves, Taylor Jordan impressed by throwing three one-run innings and striking out six.
- Danny Espinosa looked great overall today. He was 1-2 with a double, a walk, a stolen base, and two runs scored, thanks to some great baserunning. After the game, his performance prompted manager Matt Williams to say, “Danny’s got his stroke, man.” If how he played today is indicative of how he will be going forward, he could see some significant playing time this season, though the starting 2B job may be out of his reach.
- AJ Cole has yet to allow his first run of the spring, pitching 6.2 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. He is likely to start the season at Double A, but should see Triple A before the year is over and could be a September call-up as a reliever.
- It may be Spring Training, but it still feels good to go undefeated against the Cardinals and Braves on the same day.