Potent Nats lineup continues to rake vs. Braves (Nats beat Braves, tie Mets)


Scores: Nationals (ss) 7, Braves 2; Nationals (ss) 4, Mets 4

Recap: Forced to split their squad into two rosters despite the late date on the spring calendar, the Nationals kept most of their regulars in Viera to face the Braves. That group continued its impressive offensive production, rapping out 10 hits off starter Jhoulys Chacin. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman delivered back-to-back RBI singles in the first inning. Brendan Ryan, trying to force his way onto the opening day bench, delivered a two-run single in the third that raised his batting average to .393. Gio Gonzalez allowed seven hits over six innings, but most importantly didn't issue a walk, throwing 94 total pitches. Jonathan Papelbon retired the side in order in the ninth. Meanwhile, down in Port St. Lucie, Yusmeiro Petit was given a spot start and proceeded to give up four runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. Clint Robinson homered, the only hit the Nats produced off Mets left-hander Steven Matz.

Need to know: Sean Burnett continues to impress this spring, and he crossed another key hurdle in his recovery from a second Tommy John surgery today. Pitching on back-to-back days for the first time this spring, Burnett got into a second-and-third, one-out jam in the top of the seventh - though the two runners reached via a dribbler down the third-base line and a fly ball that Harper misplayed in right field. The veteran lefty proceeded to pitch out of the jam, though, striking out Emilio Bonifacio and getting Gordon Beckham to ground out. His ERA remains a spotless 0.00 through eight spring appearances.

On deck: Monday, vs. Marlins in Viera, 1:05 p.m. (Nats' final spring training game ever at Space Coast Stadium)

VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals have felt for years the heart of their lineup was as potent as any in baseball. They just rarely had the opportunity to see it in action, due to any number of injuries that plagued this roster in recent seasons.

This spring, we may finally be getting a taste of the lineup's potency. The games, of course, don't count. But the production has been impressive.

Bryce Harper white stares.jpgThe Nationals entered today's split-squad games sporting a .289 team batting average, .354 on-base percentage and 146 runs scored ... all tops in the Grapefruit League, where offensive numbers typically don't match those put up in the dry Arizona air of the Cactus League.

And much of the production has come from those who figure to bat in the heart of the Nationals lineup this season. Bryce Harper raised his spring batting average to .364 with a first-inning RBI single today. Ryan Zimmerman raised his average to .303 with a pair of singles in his first two at-bats against the Braves. Wilson Ramos, seeing the ball markedly better following LASIK surgery, carried a .370 batting average into the afternoon.

Anthony Rendon, playing in the other split-squad game in Port St. Lucie, is batting .379. Leadoff man Ben Revere entered the day hitting .375. And, of course, the white-hot Michael A. Taylor was sporting an even .500 batting average at the start of the day.

Even those who got off to a slow start have shown signs of discovering their stroke in the last week. Jayson Werth was 4 for his first 24 this spring but now has four hits in his last eight at-bats. Daniel Murphy was 2-for-17; since then he's 9-for-23.

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