Not much action for Zimmerman (Nats lose 4-2)

VIERA, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman's spring debut at third base lasted four innings. He's out of the game, replaced by Chad Tracy at the hot corner for the top of the fifth.

Zimmerman handled his only chance with no problems, but it's not like Carlos Corporan's slow roller leading off the second was particularly challenging. Zimmerman charged the bouncer, scooped it and threw across his body fluidly to get the Astros catcher by a couple of steps.

We would have gotten a better sense of how strong Zimmerman's surgically repaired right shoulder is if he had needed to move laterally to make a play, plant and really air it out.

Zimmerman was 0-for-2 at the plate, and his second appearance almost wound up with Houston starter Lucas Harrell impaled by a broken bat. Harrell sawed off Zimmerman and a large chunk of the splintered lumber helicoptered toward the mound and over a ducking Harrell's head. Harrell picked up a harmless comebacker and threw Zimmerman out at first.

Harrell departed after four innings without allowing a hit. He walked two and struck out three. Wesley Wright is on to pitch the fifth for the Astros.

The Nationals got out of the top of the fifth when Trevor Crowe doubled to left-center with two down, but forgot to keep an eye on Adam LaRoche, who snuck behind him and tagged him out when he wandered too far off second base. The out went 8-6-3.

LaRoche led off the bottom of the fifth with a clean single to center off Wright, who was promptly removed in favor of Hector Ambriz.

Strasburg is coming back out to pitch the sixth. He's thrown 81 pitches, 59 for strikes.

Update: Strasburg began the sixth by getting Brett Wallace to sky to left, then walked Carlos Pena and was removed. Craig Stammen is on to pitch.

Strasburg's 5 1/3-inning outing is the longest by a Nats starter this spring. He allowed five hits, walked one and struck out eight. Strasburg threw 93 pitches, 64 of them for strikes.

Update II: It took a couple of fielding miscues - one called an error, one not - but the Nationals made the most of the gifts to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth against reliever Josh Fields.

Chris Snyder drew a leadoff walk and, after pulling back on a bunt attempt, Denard Span skied a ball to center field that Robbie Grossman misplayed into a double. After Jayson Werth popped to right, Bryce Harper walked to load the bases.

Chad Tracy grounded into a 3-2 force at home and the Astros appeared to get a gift when LaRoche popped a ball straight up the chute in front of home plate. Corporan, the catcher, called for the ball, which drifted toward the third base line and was muffed by third baseman Marwin Gonzalez, tying the game.

The next batter, Ian Desmond, singled to left to make it 2-1.

Update III: Carlos Correa hit an RBI single off Drew Storen in the top of the eighth, tying the game at 2-2. Later in the inning, a two-run single by Rene Garcia put Houston ahead 4-2.

Update IV: That score held, as the Nats fell 4-2 to the Astros after failing to score in the final two innings.

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