TAMPA, Fla. - I'm going to keep this quick, because nothing else about this game was. And frankly, the way the Nationals and Yankees played today wasn't deserving of much attention.
The Nationals won 10-8, but only after turning a 7-0 lead into an 8-7 deficit in the fourth inning. They committed two errors, prolonging an inning where Chad Gaudin and Josh Wilkie had already created problems on the mound. When they came back to take the lead, it was on a set of Yankees pitchers who will probably spend the year in the minors.
There were certainly some things for manager Jim Riggleman to like, though there were also plenty of things the Nationals need to work on.
Here are today's awards:
Bryce Harper: We've got plenty more on Harper's day against his childhood idolshere, but he should get some credit both for how he handled his two at-bats and how he played the field. He worked a full count before a groundout in his first at-bat, and ripped a slider for a base hit and his first RBI in the second. And, he connected with Alex Cora on a relay to throw out Austin Romine at third. "Him and Cora, that was perfect - lined up perfect, executed perfect," Riggleman said. "After the momentum went away from us in the big eight-run inning, it had a chance to get away from us again right there, and that snuffed it out."
Jeff Frazier: The first baseman, who hit 25 homers at Triple-A Toledo last year in the Tigers' system, blasted a homer and a double today. He said hitting coach Lance Parrish made a change in his hand positioning last year, dropping them to get more lift in his swing, and he feels "night and day with my power," he said. The Nationals were one of the first teams to check on him this year, hoping they've got a late bloomer. Frazier got to show off in front of more than 10 family members and friends from Toms River, NJ, who came down to see him face the Yankees. He said he grew up a Mets fan, though. "I had to root against everybody else," he said.
Ryan Zimmerman: He went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, and also made a fantastic stop at third base in the first inning. He made a low throw that Chris Marrero couldn't scoop, but it would have been tough to get Nick Swisher at first, anyway. if anything went wrong for Zimmerman, it was his departure; he was the only player out of the game by the seventh inning, so the Nationals couldn't send an early bus back to Viera. Not even his face-of-the-franchise status could get things moving. "I bet if Harper was out of the game, we would have left early," he joked.
Josh Wilkie: Many of you ask about the George Washington product and when he'll get a shot in the majors, and Wilkie has done nothing but get people out in the minors the last two years. But against a pedestrian Yankees lineup on Saturday, though, he was flat-out bad, giving up three runs on four hits in an inning of work.
Nationals' defense: It's hard to pick out one player here. Gaudin helped cause problems in the fourth inning when he couldn't decide which base to throw to and made a flat-footed throw that resulted in an error, and Brian Bixler let a ball go through his legs in the same inning. The Nationals also had some other, more subtle positioning mistakes that resulted in some of their fourth-inning problems, Riggleman said. Overall, it was a sloppy day for a defense that has delivered mixed results this spring.
What to watch:
The Nationals were happy with the way Gaudin pitched, and for three innings, he did a nice job of pitching to contact before things unraveled in the fourth, in part because of his defense. He has to be considered part of the long relief mix, with a possible chance to make the rotation if Tom Gorzelanny falters. Keep an eye on him, particularly in his next outing or two.
Other than his failed scoop, Marrero had a solid day at first, making a nice stop on a hard hopper in the first inning and starting a 3-6-3 double play to end it. He continues to show some progress at the position, and it will be interesting to see how he carries it into the season.
The Nationals are back home for a 1:05 p.m. start against the Atlanta Braves, with Ross Detwiler starting for Washington while Livan Hernandez pitches in a simulated game. MASN will have its first telecast of the spring, with Bob Carpenter and FP Santangelo on the call. I've had the chance to talk quite a bit with F.P. this week as he's come in early to watch some games and get to know the team, and I think you're going to enjoy him. He's a sharp baseball guy who's got a unique perspective on the game, having spent a few years fighting his way onto big league rosters and coaching in the minor leagues.
Time to hit the road and head back across the state. Talk to you tomorrow.