VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals ended their five-game spring win streak Sunday, falling 6-4 to the Florida Marlins in a game they had in control until Florida's five-run seventh. Still, there were a few things to like about the way Washington played - particularly Michael Morse homering (again) and Ross Detwiler closing his spring in impressive fashion.
"We were playing a pretty good ballgame, and it got away from us there," manager Jim Riggleman said. "But Det did a nice job. He's really made a lot of strides since he's had that hip surgery (last year)."
Morse: After his solo shot to right field in the fifth inning, he now has nine homers for the spring, tied for most in the majors with the Orioles' Jake Fox. Morse has hit four in his past four games, and launched today's homer to deep right center, against a right-to-left breeze. We'll see if it carries over into the regular season, but the opposite field shots especially suggest Morse has legit power.
Detwiler: In his final spring outing, the left-hander was sharp again, allowing just one run in five innings while throwing 44 strikes in 65 pitches. He was able to throw his changeup for strikes; if he can do that in the minors while working on his curveball, he'll have the stuff to get himself back to the majors fairly quickly.
Drew Storen: He allowed one hit, but needed only seven pitches to get through the ninth in his third straight impressive outing.
Brian Broderick: The Rule 5 pick might have already made the team on the basis of an impressive spring, but nothing he did today helped his case. He allowed four hits and five runs, though only three of them were earned, in an inning of work that raised his ERA from 0.66 to 2.45. He wasn't helped much by his defense, which let several balls through the infield, but Broderick wasn't crazy about the pitches he made on a couple of the hits. "I made some good pitches, I made some bad pitches, and the bad pitches got hit, found holes," Broderick said. "I can't really do much about it."
Nationals center fielders: On the day Nyjer Morgan was traded to Milwaukee, his two replacements didn't inspire much confidence at the plate. Rick Ankiel went 0-for-3, lowering his spring average to .218, and Jerry Hairston Jr. was 0-for-2.
What to watch:
Danny Espinosa, who went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, had an impressive day on the basepaths. He went first-to-third on Alex Cora's fourth-inning single to center, and in the sixth inning, he singled to right, stole second and third and came home on a wild pitch. The two walks were also a good sign for Espinosa, who had a .365 on-base percentage in the minors and could find himself leading off if Ian Desmond struggles.
Ryan Zimmerman made his first error of the spring on an odd play in the seventh inning, when both he and Cora (who was playing first base) moved in for a bunt. Zimmerman charged the bunt, but instead of throwing toward first, he turned and looked for a play at third, where Ian Desmond was covering the bag. Zimmerman, though, couldn't get a handle on the ball and throw it, and as he stumbled to the ground, all the runners were safe. The play was by design, Riggleman said, but Zimmerman just didn't field it cleanly. "It was going to be a tough angle, and I think he knew it was going to be a tough angle, so he tried to quicken it up a little bit and lost the ball," Zimmerman said. "We run that play to get an out at third, and that's what he was trying to do."
The Nationals play their final road game of the spring, heading to Walt Disney World to take on the Braves. Tom Milone, who's likely starting the year at Triple-A Syracuse, will start for Washington.
I'll have a piece with some thoughts on the Nyjer Morgan trade and what went wrong in his relationship with the Nationals later tonight, and we'll be back at it before tomorrow's 6:05 p.m. start. Talk to you then.