VIERA, Fla. - I'm going to keep this really quick, since there's another game to get to in Kissimmee that starts at 7:05. The Nationals improved to 8-3 this spring, beating the Mets 6-5 at Space Coast Stadium in a game delayed an hour by rain.
Once again, the Nationals took an early lead, getting up 4-0 as Chad Gaudin turned in five shutout innings. The Mets burned Tyler Clippard for four runs (three earned) in the ninth, but Washington hung on for the victory.
Here are today's awards:
Chad Gaudin: Five shutout innings put him in the mix for one of the rotation spots, or in the worst case, a spot in the bullpen as a swingman. He struck out six batters with a sharp breaking ball. "He's thrown the ball good twice in a row," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's going to make it a tough call for us."
Jayson Werth: He's been quiet this spring, getting his at-bats without much succes at the plate, but the $126 million man had a strong day on Thursday. He drew two walks, including one for an RBI, and drove in another run with a ground-rule double.
Alex Cora: The utilityman is quietly putting together a strong spring, and went 2-for-3 on Thursday with a run. He also went from first to third on a shallow Ian Desmond single in the seventh inning before scoring on a wild pitch to Werth.
Clippard: He threw a meatball to Lucas Duda in the ninth inning, giving up a three-run homer, and allowed two more hits in an inning of work.
Nationals' defense: They made three more errors, though only one was committed by a player likely to be in their lineup (Desmond's throwing error). But Michael Aubrey and Destin Hood also botched balls in the field.
Laynce Nix: He's gotten a long look in the outfield this week - possibly as a showcase for a trade - but he was 0-for-4 with 2 Ks today.
What to watch:
The big takeaway from this game was how Drew Storen approached his 1 1/3 innings of work. He got an out at the end of the seventh inning with nothing but fastballs - which Riggleman said was important because it showed the right-hander he didn't need his breaking ball as his only put-away pitch. He walked Duda on a 3-2 slider that he thought was a strike, but after giving up another hit, he came back to strike out the last three batters of the inning. "The biggest thing is picking your spots with it, not getting breaking-ball happy," Storen said. "One thing in the last couple outings I've learned is, I can get outs with my fastball."
The Nationals haven't mandated that Storen only throw fastballs, but they've asked him to throw it enough that he gets more comfortable with it. Once he was able to set up breaking balls with it, instead of pitching backward and using his breaking ball to set up his fastball, he got through the eighth inning without a run. "We've never taken his breaking ball away from him," pitching coach Steve McCatty said. "He knows what we want done."
The Nationals take on the Astros at 7:05 tonight in Kissimmee. Tom Gorzelanny makes his first appearance of the spring for the Nationals, and is expected to pitch two innings.
I've got to hit the road to make it to Osceola County Stadium for the first pitch. Talk to you from there.