NATIONALS QUICK WRAP
Score: Tigers 12, Nationals 6
Recap: Detroit scored four runs in the third inning off starter Taylor Jordan and came back with five more in the fourth against reliever Luis Ayala, who got only two outs. Tyler Moore and Scott Hairston homered for the Nats.
Need to know: Today's contest is the first of three games between the Nats and Tigers in a four-day span, one of those little Grapefruit League scheduling quirks. A trip to Jupiter tomorrow never looked so good.
On deck: Saturday, at Marlins in Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.
LAKELAND, Fla. - One of the benefits of pitching veteran relievers early in games is that they get to face legitimate major league hitters instead of coming in to work against guys who are more likely to be in Double-A for much of the summer.
Maybe that's the reason right-hander Luis Ayala was in to pitch in the fourth inning of a 4-3 game today. Maybe not.
Maybe starter Taylor Jordan was supposed to go a little deeper than the three innings he lasted. Maybe not. But at 60 pitches, Jordan was out and Ayala was in.
Ayala, a veteran signed to a minor league deal trying hard to impress and earn his way onto the opening day roster, didn't fare well.
By the time he departed with two down in the fourth inning, the Tigers had expanded the lead to 9-3 on six hits against the right-hander. Another run charged to Ayala came in against Zach Jackson, who relieved and eventually got the elusive third out.
Tyler Moore's two-run homer an inning ago seems like it was two hours ago, and the Nats now trail 9-4 after Jamey Carroll's fifth-inning triple scored Zach Walters, who led off the frame with a single. Carroll later scored to make it 9-5.
While the Tigers had no trouble figuring out Ayala, Jordan had a bit of an issue adjusting to home plate umpire Andy Fletcher's strike zone.
"I wasn't locating pitches very well and wasn't getting the low called strikes like I should have," Jordan said. "A lot of those pitches were borderline strikes and none of them were called. Just kept the ball up a little bit if it wasn't down. I was just trying to adjust to the strike zone. They hit me around a little bit."
The strike zone issues aside, Jordan said he didn't feel like he had command with any pitch.
"A lot of the pitches, I was just babying. The changeup and the slider, I was just babying, trying to guide it almost to where I wanted it," he said.
Arm strength isn't an issue. Velocity isn't a problem.
"I just have to command my pitches better," Jordan said.
Update: Scott Hairston homered in the sixth, cutting the Tigers' lead to 9-6.