VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals picked up their third tie of the spring today, putting their Grapefruit League record at 5-7-3.
As one reporter joked, that won-loss record looks like something out of the NHL.
Manager Davey Johnson wasn't too thrilled about ending today's game with the Marlins knotted at 1-1 after nine innings ("I don't like ties," he said, "I want to see the outcome."), but his only other option was to send minor league right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx out for the top of the 10th inning.
Bibens-Dirkx had pitched in a game two days ago and was just scheduled to have a bullpen session today, so Johnson didn't want to toss him out there in a game situation. As a result, the two teams ended this one without going to an extra frame.
The Nats had a chance to pick up the win when Jason Michaels singled leading off the bottom of the ninth and then went to third with no outs on Brett Carroll's single to left. But a baserunning error on a Jhonatan Solano groundball to second allowed the Marlins to get an easy double play by throwing out Solano at first and then nabbing Carroll, who froze between first and second to avoid being tagged out.
"It can't happen," Johnson said. "That was not a good picture to see. We've been pretty good (on the bases), but that wasn't pretty."
Johnson explained that with the Marlins playing the infield in, Carroll should have taken off for second on the pitch, because the middle infielders needed to stay in their defensive holes and would have conceded the stolen base. There's a minor risk of the Nats running into a linedrive double play in that situation, but Johnson said the smart move is to try and get another runner into scoring position by swiping a bag.
A few innings prior, Michaels dropped his second fly ball of spring when he couldn't corral a ball off the bat of Miami's Jeff Dominguez. Michaels didn't blame the sun or a gust of wind which appeared to carry the ball toward the left field line, taking full blame for the error.
"I read it too quick and reacted too quick," Michaels said. "I made the ball start jumping."
Aside from a couple minor miscues, it was a smooth day for the Nats overall, especially regarding starter Jordan Zimmermann, who threw four scoreless innings.
"Zim was great," Johnson said. "He threw the ball exceptionally well. Really strong there at the end, too. It was a little wild, but (he had) great stuff. It was a good day of work for him. ... He's been throwing the heck out of the ball from Day One. Last year, what I saw, he had low pitch counts because he had such great command of the strike zone. I wanted him to pitch more on the corners, not give in, that kind of thing.
"His stuff is great. Hard to center on somebody who has that much movement and is throwing that hard."
Hard-throwing righty Henry Rodriguez worked another scoreless inning today, walking one but not allowing a hit.
Rodriguez has now tossed four scoreless innings this spring, giving up just one hit and the walk with four strikeouts. The 25-year-old had a rough spring last year and started the regular season on the DL, but he's come out hot at the beginning of this year.
"He's looked good," Johnson said. "He's looked totally in control. Today was his roughest outing. He was a little wild, but nothing much. He's picking up right where he left off at the end of the year."