JUPITER, Fla. -- You knew the day after Strasburg Mania (or Strasburgeddon, or whatever cutesy D.C. snowstorm spin-off name you want to give it) was going to be a bit of a letdown. And what followed in the Nationals' 6-4 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday was nothing special -- just a simple, quick, mostly clean loss.
The Nationals fell behind 4-0. They rallied to get within one. They gave up a couple more runs, added one more and fell short in the ninth. Pretty basic baseball. And most of the glaring issues that have emerged this spring weren't there on Wednesday.
Garrett Mock pitched a so-so game. So did J.D. Martin after him. Matt Capps made one bad pitch in his inning, and got burned by a routine fly ball that took off in the wind. Nothing special, and certainly nothing stellar -- but nothing like the poundings the Nationals have taken earlier this spring.
General manager Mike Rizzo said on Wednesday morning he didn't care about the results in spring training -- "They shouldn't even keep score or stats, as far as I'm concerned," and while the Nationals' 0-8 record isn't where anyone wants it to be, it means absolutely nothing in the end. They're starting to pitch cleaner games, and they showed an ability to generate some rallies on Wednesday. If they're still having issues in two weeks, that's of greater concern. But there isn't much reason for any right now.
(For the record: I hate the snowstorm names.)
Willie Harris: Starting at second base, Harris went 2-for-4 with a pair of extra-base hits, a run and an RBI. He had a stand-up triple to right in the sixth inning, and also doubled in the eighth. He's hitting .308 so far this spring.
Ivan Rodriguez: On the same day the Nationals sent Jesus Flores to Dr. James Andrews for more physical therapy, Rodriguez showed again why Washington got him. He went 1-for-2 and twice threw out Felipe Lopez on the basepaths -- once on a pickoff play at second and once when Lopez tried stealing second. "That felt like a helicopter buzzing by my ear," pitcher Garrett Mock said.
Adam Dunn: He isn't hitting homers yet, but he punched a couple of singles to the outfield in a 2-for-3 day and didn't have any issues in the field.
Elijah Dukes: The right fielder struggled again at the plate, going 0-for-3. He's batting .200 so far this spring.
Chris Duncan: Appearing against his old team, Duncan went 0-for-5, struck out twice and left four on base, though he did drive in a run with a groundout.
Kevin Mench's bat: The slippery piece of lumber provided some comic relief in the ninth inning during Mench's pinch hit appearances. First, it flew out of Mench's hands and landed, in one piece, in the stands down the third-base line. Seeing it hadn't hurt anyone, Mench asked for it back so he could continue to use it. The fan obliged, and the Nationals gave him a fungo bat to keep as a souvenir instead. And then, the bat broke on a foul grounder, leaving Mench holding on to only the handle.
What to watch:
Capps gave up two runs on two hits in his inning of work, but the line looked worse than it was because of a fly ball that took off in the wind and dropped over Justin Maxwell's head for a double. He hasn't been terribly sharp this spring, but neither he nor manager Jim Riggleman was terribly concerned with the result. "I'm using all my pitches, and for the most part, throwing them where I want them to go," Capps said.
The next time the Nationals face the Cardinals, it will be Stephen Strasburg's turn to make his next start. The rookie right-hander is slated to face St. Louis on Sunday, but on Wednesday, plenty of people were still talking about his first outing. One person who wasn't saying much, though, was general manager Mike Rizzo. He said it was "refreshing" to see how seriously Strasburg prepared for the start. But he wouldn't bite on a question about the plan he's put in place for Strasburg. "I'm not going to tell you what the plan is," he said with an admonishing smirk.