NATIONALS QUICK WRAP
SCORE: Braves 8, Nationals 4
Recap: Matt Williams rolled the dice late in the game, deciding to implement something the Nats have worked on in drills. With the game tied and the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the eighth, Williams brought in right fielder Steven Souza Jr. to play first base, giving the Nats five infielders. The move backfired, as Braves infielder Phil Gosselin ripped a bases-clearing triple to right - exactly where Souza would have been standing. This game means nothing, but Williams got to work some strategy he might utilize in a game that does.
Need to know: Stephen Strasburg went two strong innings and looked sharp in his spring debut. Ian Desmond went 3-for-3 with a homer and a stolen base. Drew Storen allowed two runs, two walks and a double in his first work this spring.
On deck: Wednesday, home vs. Mets, 1:05 p.m.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Nationals have a 4-2 lead here in the seventh, with Ian Desmond’s solo homer to deep - and I mean deep - left-center breaking a 2-2 tie in the fifth and Brian Goodwin then scoring on a throwing error in the top of the seventh to make it a two-run game.
Desmond is 3-for-3 with a single, a double and a homer today. His longball traveled so far that the Braves’ outfielders just turned and watched it fly.
Goodwin came around to score on more Matt Williams-ball. With runners at the corners and two outs in the seventh, Williams started Jamey Carroll from first. The Braves threw down to second, and Carroll stopped mid-way between first and second. Goodwin then took off from third, and when Dan Uggla’s throw home was wide of the mark, Goodwin slid in safely.
Force the issue, make the opposing team make a play. Worked this time.
Taylor Jordan allowed five hits and two runs in two innings of work, striking out three. A.J. Cole followed him to the mound and delivered two perfect frames, striking out B.J. Upton and Evan Gattis.
Stephen Strasburg’s first spring outing is in the books, as the right-hander completed two scoreless innings this afternoon at Champion Stadium, allowing one hit and striking out one.
It was a quick two frames for Strasburg, requiring just 15 pitches, and he was pleased with the outing overall.
“I feel good,” Strasburg said. “I know once I get my mechanics a little cleaned up and a little in sync I start to throw a little bit harder. Felt pretty good today. Felt a little bit out of sync at the same time, but that’s kind of how it happens every year. Felt good and excited to get back out there.
“I threw some offspeed pitches in there, threw some fastballs for strikes. You just want to go out there and pound the strike zone early and let the spring training build up and take its course.”
Strasburg has added a slider to his repertoire this spring, and he was happy with how the pitch felt today. He said he threw three or four of them - two to B.J. Upton, including one that got Upton swinging at a third strike and one that induced an Evan Gattis groundout to second.
“They’ve never seen it before, so I want it to look as much like a fastball as possible,” Strasburg said. “If I get a little bit of movement, that’s all that I’m looking for. Like I said, I’m not gonna dump my other offspeed pitches for it, it’s just gonna be something to keep them from cheating to the fastball as much.”
While Strasburg would have liked to have gone two hitless innings, Justin Upton’s bouncing single up the middle in the second allowed Strasburg to work out of the stretch and put into practice his new techniques on how he’s going to hold runners.
Strasburg turned to look at Upton as he went into the stretch position, which is a new pre-pitch routine for him. He then worked on varying his times to the plate and delivered a pick-off throw, which Upton beat out.
“That’s the stuff I need to work on,” Strasburg said, “and to have that kind of vary my times and just get more comfortable with that to where it becomes more second-nature and to where I’m not necessarily thinking about that so much and then having to get back focused to executing the pitch. That’s gonna be huge for me. ...
“Make it just a part of how I control runners and get to the point where I don’t really focus on it as much. Just kind of happens.”
Strasburg will likely face the Braves a few times during the regular season, so it might not have been ideal that he had to see them today. Some pitchers don’t like facing division opponents in spring, fearing that they’ll show the opposition too much or give away some information in a meaningless game.
That doesn’t seem to bother Strasburg, however.
“In today’s game, they’ve got scouting reports like you wouldn’t believe,” Strasburg said. “And we’ve got it on them. The bottom line is you need to go out and execute your pitches and the odds are in your favor. Doesn’t matter if they know what’s coming.”