It was a long day for all involved.
The Washington Nationals played a pair of spring training games yesterday, defeating the New York Mets 6-5 at home and falling to the Houston Astros 6-5 in Kissimmee, FL in the nightcap.
And although the Houston game was listed as a "split squad" game, several players that appeared in the home game also played in the night game, and skipper Jim Riggleman was at the helm for both.
General Manager Mike Rizzo also attended both, watching from just behind the Nats on deck circle all day.
In the day game, the Nats jumped out to a big lead on the Mets, then held on in the late innings for the win. Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche both drove in a pair of runs on doubles, and Ian Desmond had two hits and scored twice.
|Jayson Werth drove in his first run of the spring with a two-run double in the 6-5 win over the Mets. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
Starter Chad Gaudin certainly helped his cause to make this team, pitching five strong innings, allowing just four hits and one walk, striking out six. Drew Storen pitched himself into a jam, putting runners on the corners with one out, but after a visit from pitching coach Steve McCatty, struck out the next two batters with wicked breaking balls.
|Chad Gaudin delivers in Nats 6-5 win over Mets. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
Tyler Clippard struggled in his appearance, surrendering four runs (three earned) on three hits, striking out two, in the ninth inning. But he held on to put the Curly W in the book.
The night game saw the Nats score four times in the seventh inning to tie the game, only to have the Astros win in the bottom of the ninth, as phenom right fielder Bryce Harper missed the cut-off man on a hard double to the corner, sending his throw across the infield and up the third base line, allowing the runner to score from third with the winning run.
The play detracts from an otherwise encouraging performance from the 18-year old. He doubled in his only at bat, hustling all the way on a blooped single to short left center to just beat the throw for the extra base.
|Bryce Harper uncorks a bad throw, leading to winning run in 6-5 loss to Houston. (C. Nichols/Nats News Network)|
Jerry Hairston went 3-for-3 in the nightcap, Roger Bernadina drove in two with a triple in the Nats four-run seventh, and Brian Bixler tripled and scored earlier in the game.
Tom Gorzelanny started and got roughed up in his first grapefruit appearance. He went two and one-third innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks, striking out just one. He wasn't sharp at all, going to a three-ball count to just about every batter.
|Tom Gorzelanny walked three in his first appearance. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
Garrett Mock came on and didn't fare much better, giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk in two and two-thirds innings.
Collin Balester and Cole Kimball both threw an inning of scoreless relief, while Atahualpa Severino took the loss.
The big takeaway from today's games, other than Gaudin's strong performance, was the poor defense in both games. The Nationals committed three errors in both games and the sharpness that the Nats have carried on defense in the early part of spring training seems to have dissipated.
In the first game, first baseman Michael Aubrey kicked a routine ground ball, Ian Desmond air-mailed one from short and prospect Destin Hood flat dropped a ball in left field after taking a circuitous route on the deep fly ball in a swirling wind.
Against Houston, Jeff Frazier overran a ball in right that led to a run, Jerry Hairston threw a ball away from third, and Harper's error from right ended the game.
The scored errors are one thing, but doesn't take into account plays that could -- or should -- have been made that don't get counted as errors. In his last two games, Adam LaRoche had balls go under his glove that might have been playable.
For an organization that has preached all winter about becoming more athletic and better defensively, they still have a ways to go. Granted that some of these errors were committed by players that are slated for the minor leagues, it's still sticks out that for all the emphasis Rizzo put on the defensive aspect of the game this off-season, his team is still kicking the ball around as much as they are.
NATS NOTES: Prospects Destin Hood, Eury Perez, Steve Lombardozzi, Stephen King and Matt Antonelli all appeared in both games. Derek Norris was the DH in the second game.
The Nats were 4-for-18 with runners in scoring position on the day.
Danny Espinosa went 1-for-5 with an RBI in the night game, and played two innings at shortstop late in the game after a bunch of defensive substiutions.