Another strong start for Jason Marquis

JUPITER, Fla. - If Jason Marquis’ day is done after four innings - and the plan before the game was for the right-hander to go four - he’s finished another impressive outing.

He allowed two hits in four shutout innings, striking out three batters and walking one. But the most impressive part of Marquis’ day - and the most encouraging sign for the Nationals - is his groundout-to-flyout ratio: He got eight outs via ground balls (including one double play), compared to just one flyout. He’s pitched seven scoreless innings this spring.

Everyone in baseball knows Marquis is a veteran innings-eater who’s never going to dominate or be much more than an efficient middle-of-the-rotation starter at best. But if he’s in the neighborhood of his career 4.56 ERA, that means he’s going to allow three runs in six innings most nights. That’s a quality start, and it should be enough to win some games with the Nationals’ bullpen.

And once he’s pitched a couple months in the majors, taking some of the sting out of his $7.5 million salary, he might have some trade value for a team in need of a veteran starter.

It’s 3-0 Nationals in the fifth - Danny Espinosa just followed up his third-inning RBI double with a two-run homer to left. He’s got two extra-base hits today, one coming from each side of the plate, and was also hit by a pitch. And, he started a double play in the second inning.