For the first time this spring training, the Washington Nationals looked sloppy at times, had a pitcher blow up, and -- not surprising -- found themselves on the wrong side of the score, falling to the St. Louis Cardinals 7-5, before 3.601 at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL.
The Nationals were charged with two errors, but twice let balls fall between fielders and a run scored when Michael Morse, playing first, made a bad throw to the plate.
The Nats also had two runners thrown out trying to steal and one trying to take an extra base.
Yup, today's game looked a lot more like games from last spring than the three previous this season.
Today's starter, Jordan Zimmermann, gave up four hits and walked one in three innings, but did not give up a run. He struck out one in the effort. The most important aspect of his game though was just being able to take the hill, throw all his pitches, sit during the Nats at bats, and get back up again without experiencing any discomfort.
He accomplished all those things. He told reporters after the game, "The big thing for me was the up and downs. How I was going to feel in the second and third innings - was the arm going to get tight? I felt great. I felt awesome the whole time."
This season will be all about how Zimmermann continues to recover from his Tommy John surgery. His velocity is back, but he'll need to test the limit of his surgically reparied elbow and regain the command and control that elevated him to the top of the Nationals prospects lists before the injury.
Unfortunately, after Zimmermann left the game the trouble started for the Nats. Garrett Mock took over in the fourth and couldn't make it out of the inning. He was victimized by his defense -- Danny Espinosa made an error in the inning -- but Mock didn't help himself with three walks and a wild pitch in a five-run (one earned) outing.
Shairon Martis didn't help his case for a roster spot either in his inning of work, giving up two runs on three hits and dropping an easy throw while covering first.
Tim Wood, Doug Slaten and Todd Coffey all pitched a scoreless inning of relief.
As for the hitters, Derek Norris clubbed a home run in his only at bat, and Ivan Rodriguez, Wilson Ramos and Alberto Gonzalez all had two hits apiece.
Washington hosts the Atlanta Braves tomorrow at 1:05 pm.
NATS NOTES: Nyjer Morgan got his first hit of the spring but left four men on base. He's hitting .100 thus far.
Despite the bad throw to home, Morse did start a 3-6-3 double play, and Coffey made a nice play to start a 1-6-3 in the eighth.
Rick Ankiel was given a nice ovation by Cardinals fans in his first at bat. He and Espinosa both had stolen bases.
Bryce Harper went 0-for-2 and had a ball fall between him and Espinosa at second. Harper called Espinosa off though the second baseman was camped under it.
***Quotes for this story were used from published reports.