VIERA, Fla. - The guys at the back end of the Nationals’ spring training roster were the ones doing the heavy hitting today, as the Nats put up nine total runs in their final two turns to the plate en route to an 11-5 win over the Mets.
Ian Desmond homered early on for the Nats, but they got the bulk of their offense from minor leaguers and non-roster invitees, as Brian Goodwin, Sandy Leon and Matt Skole all homered in the seventh or eighth innings and the Nationals pulled away late.
“The guys in the starting lineup were a little short today because they were (playing their second game) in a row, so we got them out of there after a couple ABs,” manager Matt Williams said. “So that was early today. But I think overall it was really good. I think Gio (Gonzalez) was sharp. If he missed, he was just off. I think Craig (Stammen) had a little bit of an issue early, jumping out there a little bit, but settled in to finish the inning. (Tyler Clippard) was good. And then the hyenas got ‘em.
“They come ready to play every day. They’re not always in the starting lineup, but they’re itching to get out there whenever they can get out there and they played really well.”
Desmond continued his strong start to spring, smoking a solo homer to deep right-center in the third inning. The Nats’ shortstop is now 4-for-10 with two homers, a double, three RBIs and three stolen bases so far in just four games played.
“I just think he’s doing what he wants to do,” Williams said. “He’s up there with an approach even though it’s early. He’s been working with Rick (Schu, hitting coach) a lot on, he just wants to be competitive with the other side of the diamond. And we saw that today. He wants to be able to drive balls in that gap, opposite (field), and backspin balls to his opposite side. So that’s what he’s working on. He’s working on that in batting practice, he’s working on that in his cage work. And there were fruits of that labor today. He wants to continue to do that. His work ethic has been fantastic and he’s right in line with what he wants to do.”
Matt Purke allowed three runs on five hits in two innings today. The left-hander struck out two today, but has now put 12 runners on base in 3 1/3 innings so far this spring.
“It’s been a couple of bad pitches,” Williams said. “He got into a situation today with guys on base and couldn’t make the pitch when he wanted to make the pitch. Left the ball up, and it happens. With regard to the other pitches he threw, they were pretty darn good. Good changeups down in the zone, good fastballs. Occasional breaking ball. He just got in trouble and couldn’t make that pitch. It happens. Doesn’t mean we’re gonna stop giving him the ball. He’s gonna get it again and go out there. That’s what he needs to do. He’s fine.”
Zach Walters had been written into the lineup as the Nats’ starting second baseman today, but he was scratched just before gametime due to flu-like symptoms, Williams said. A virus has been going around the Nats clubhouse lately, and Walters was apparently the latest to catch it.
“He was really sick,” Williams said. “He wouldn’t tell anybody and then we looked at him and he didn’t look too good. We asked him and he reluctantly said he didn’t feel well. So we scratched him.”
The Nats still hope to get Walters some time at second base in the near future, Williams said.
Bryce Harper and Jeff Kobernus also have battled a stomach bug lately, and the virus is apparently an issue on the Nats’ minor league side, as well. Kobernus was actually sent home today after participating in pregame drills.