With Sunday's loss, a 7-3 defeat to the Cardinals, the Nationals are now 0-10 this spring, and while players aren't concerned with the record, manager Jim Riggleman had some issues with the way the Nationals are playing.
Those issues showed up again on Sunday, particularly with a bullpen that gave up five runs after Livan Hernandez -- technically a reliever, but essentially the second starting pitcher of the day -- allowed two runs in the fourth inning. The Nationals walked 11 batters, and reliever Ron Villone made an error trying to turn a 1-2-3 double play that instead led to two runs.
Stephen Strasburg was strong again in his second start of the spring, but the Nationals didn't have much else to be happy about.
"It feels terrible to lose," Riggleman said. "I don't care what you're doing. It feels terrible to lose."
Here are today's Golden Geese and Goose Eggs. Side note: I seriously considered renaming today's Golden Geese the Golden Gophers. Fine with an 11 seed -- and Xavier is beatable, especially with the game in Milwaukee. But anyway, I'll be reasonable:
Stephen Strasburg: The rookie right-hander was impressive again, despite strong winds that made it a tricky day for pitchers. He allowed two hits and a walk, but no runs, in three innings, striking out two. Strasburg threw first-pitch strikes to seven of 11 batters, hit 97 with his fastball and showed a greater willingness to throw his slider than he did in his first spring start. "I'm just getting more comfortable out there," Strasburg said. "I'm still trying to get my mechanics back from having an offseason. I learned a few things out there again. I'm just trying to keep progressing."
Alberto Gonzalez: The infielder looks like a long-shot to make the team at this point, but he was 2-for-3 with a run and made some nice plays in the field.
Brian Bruney: He's struggled for much of the spring, but Bruney pitched a perfect ninth on Sunday.
Tyler Clippard: It's been a good spring for the reliever so far, but Sunday's game wasn't pretty. He walked five in 1 1/3 innings, giving up only one hit but allowing five runs (three of them earned). Clippard, who was yanked for Ron Villone, didn't have much control of his fastball today. His next-best weapon, the changeup, becomes ineffective when his fastball isn't working.
Ron Villone: Coming into the game for Clippard in the eighth, Villone walked two in 1/3 of an inning. One of those walks drove in a run, and Villone made a throwing error when trying to turn what should have been an easy 1-2-3 double play that led to two runs.
Nyjer Morgan: Morgan is still trying to make some timing adjustments in his swing, and went 0-for-3 on Sunday, dropping his spring average to .143.
What to watch:
The big question from Sunday's game is: What's next for Stephen Strasburg? Riggleman said again the Nationals haven't ruled out the possibility of putting Strasburg in the rotation, though that still seems unlikely from where I'm sitting. "It's going to be an organizational decision. I'm part of the organization. I'll have input in it," Riggleman said. "Mike and Stan and the Lerners and Steve McCatty and Spin Williams, we'll continue to put our heads together and come up with a decision." There was little doubt Strasburg was going to be one of the Nationals' best five pitchers, but the question becomes how seriously they'll weigh that against their preference for most players to spend some time in the minors. Riggleman said he expects Strasburg will start against the Cardinals on Friday night, so we should see him again there
Livan Hernandez made his first appearance of the spring, rebounding after a rough first inning to pitch his last two innings scoreless. He said the wind was affecting his delivery in his first inning, and made his breaking pitches move more than he was expecting. But Hernandez looked fine, and it continues to be likely he'll be in the rotation come April.
The Nationals have their first night game of the spring tomorrow, a 7:05 contest against the Braves at Space Coast Stadium. That game will be televised on MASN and MASN HD, and Garrett Mock will take the mound for the Nationals.