VIERA, Fla. - Two spring training games are in the books for the Nationals: a loss to the Mets yesterday and a 2-2 tie with the Marlins today.
“We’re making progress,” manager Davey Johnson joked after today’s game. “Broke that losing streak.”
Jordan Zimmermann got things off on the right foot, allowing just one run on two hits over three innings of work. The right-hander was so efficient that he completed a full three frames before reaching Johnson’s 45-pitch limit for his starters in their first outing.
“Zim threw the ball really well,” Johnson said. “Really pleased with what he did, getting three innings in. Very impressive.”
Zach Duke followed Zimmermann with a scoreless inning before the rain came down, prompting a delay of 1 hour, 6 minutes. Yunesky Maya took over after play resumed, working three scoreless innings, allowing a single hit.
“Maya was good,” Johnson said. “I would’ve stuck with the left-hander another inning, Zach Duke, but just too long a delay. Some of the guys, I took them out a little early, one at-bat short in a lot of cases, but I didn’t want them having to regroup, go out there and hurt themselves.”
The Nats held a 2-1 lead going into the top of the ninth, but Drew Storen surrendered a run on an RBI groundout that knotted the game and forced extra innings.
This early in spring, Johnson obviously takes the results very lightly when it comes to any of his pitchers, Storen included.
“He was getting his work in,” Johnson said. “I thought he left the ball up. He had good velocity but he just left some balls up, out over the plate. I don’t put too much stock in it early. I want these guys to be ready for opening day. I think he threw one breaking ball. His location was a little up early and they hit him.”
One of the only offensive highlights of the day was Anthony Rendon’s two-run, opposite-field homer in the fifth inning. Rendon, who appears to have bulked up from this time last year, showed off the smooth stroke that has wowed scouts for the last few years.
“Just hope he stays healthy this year,” Johnson said. “He’s got a big future.”
Johnson was asked what Rendon has to do in order to be major league-ready. His answer is telling of how advanced Rendon is at this point in his young career.
“Just reps, and having a position for him,” Johnson said. “I like him. He’s shown some (adeptness) at short and third, but he hasn’t played over at second base. I turned (Mark) Grudzielanek into a second baseman and it took me all of spring with him, but he’s actually further along than Grudzielanek was. I think he’s going to be fine going over there.
“Coming from third it’s actually easier because he comes over the top (when throwing) to second. ... A lot of shortstops come over and go down (sidearm). I’m more interested in the footwork first before we get into that.”
The Nats had a shot to win the game in the 10th when Matt Skole’s single moved Eury Perez into scoring position with one out, but Perez was gunned down trying to scoot into third.
“The only thing I didn’t like about that - it took a perfect throw to get him and it was a perfect throw - was that he’d made a commitment to go, but when he was three steps past second, he looked back,” Johnson said. “Once you’ve committed, you don’t need to look back. That was a baserunning error there. ... You’re not going to stop at that point.”