VIERA, Fla. - Six of the Nationals’ 10 hits during today’s 6-5 win over a split-squad Marlins lineup went for extra bases.
That includes Adam LaRoche’s third homer of spring and Danny Espinosa’s first two longballs of the Grapefruit League schedule, the latter of which was an opposite-field walk-off onto the World of Beer patio in left field.
Doug Fister went 3 2/3 strong innings, and Chris Young followed with 2 1/3 scoreless, but Rafael Soriano allowed a run in the seventh, Ross Detwiler gave up three in the eighth and Michael Gonzalez blew a save in the ninth by surrendering a run of his own.
Here are quotes from both manager Matt Williams and Espinosa, the offensive star of the afternoon:
Williams on Bryce Harper’s up-and-down day, which featured two hits but also a baserunning error and an ill-advised throw to the plate in the eighth that allowed the eventual tying run to move up a base: “That’s a young player that is trying to be aggressive. On the good side of it, a couple of base hits, good at-bats, really battled, advancing on a ball in the dirt from second, getting to third base with less than two outs. Again, he’s aggressive and we love that about him and he’s 21 years old and he’ll learn from everything that happens on the field, good and bad. We’ll talk to him about it certainly tomorrow, relive it, give him options. But I thought overall he had a good day. The last at-bat he swung at a couple balls out of the strike zone but that’s going to happen to everyone. Overall I thought it was good.”
Williams on the throw being frustrating because of the timing, late in the game with the tying run on base: “Yeah. We certainly want to hold that guy at second base. But Bryce is an aggressive guy. So we have to understand the mistakes that he will make and appreciate the good things he does and move forward.”
Williams on trying to strike a balance with Harper’s aggressiveness: “It’s hard because if you take away his aggressiveness, you take away from his ability as a player. Again, we want to keep that guy at second base. But do you understand where he threw the ball all the way to the plate from? It’s almost the warning track, right? So I go, ‘Wow! (pause) Wrong move, but wow.’ So it’s phenomenal talent and he’s well on his way to harnessing that when he needs to and being aggressive when he needs to, so we’ll continue.”
Williams on how Harper looked offensively: “A little bit calmer today. Again, you start feeling good about yourself, get a couple hits and then it can get big again. We saw that a little bit with the last at-bat. But the one off (Kevin) Slowey was good. Fouled off five, six pitches, whatever it was and then stayed on top of a ball to the opposite side. He can do that when he wants to so that just tells me he has that capability behind in the count to fight a ball off the other way. That’s good evidence for him today that he can do that whenever he wants to, take that approach. So that approach works certainly with a man on third and less than two outs, certainly with a man in scoring position or behind in the count like he was. Those are all good things.”
Williams on Detwiler’s outing, which featured two hits and two walks: “I think he lost a little bit of command and he gets in that situation, he’s looking for ground balls, so he’s throwing the sinker. He just left a couple of them up and they were able to hit them. But he’s fine. He’s still working through the process of getting ready faster and getting out of the bullpen and into the game. So that’s going to be a process but we’ll continue to work him through that.”
Williams on Soriano, who gave up a solo shot to Marcell Ozuna in the seventh: “I think he’s good. He missed a little bit high today. Ball was kind of up today, but that’s spring. Again, he had to wait a little bit longer today to get in the game than he normally would. Generally he’s in the fifth inning-ish, today he was in the seventh. So it’s all an adjustment period getting back into that and we’ll have to adjust again as we get him closer to the ninth. So he’s fine.”
Williams on it being good to see Espinosa’s improved approach result in something positive: “Yeah, sure. It’s hard to say it’s a good approach when you’re not getting any hits. But it has been and it still is. So it’s nice to see some results out of it, sure. ... We can tell him all day long he’s right on, he’s right where he needs to be. But it helps when they fall in. Or over.”
Williams on Espinosa not swinging hard on the homers: “No. He doesn’t have to. The ball he hit to right-center, that’s against the wind. It just lets him know that he’s got enough when he’s under control and puts the head of the bat on it. There’s plenty there. So it was good.”
Espinosa on if it’s encouraging to see results today: “It’s more encouraging, definitely. I feel like I’ve really been sticking to what I’m trying to do and just simplify as much as possible. It was nice today to see it.”
On his approach on the homers: “Yeah, both of those I was just trying to stay short to the ball and just be on time and be short. Not swinging as hard as I can, but just short and on time and trying to barrel the ball.”