The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Spring Training Game 6 (Nats vs Mets)

In Game 6 of the Grapefruit League season, the Washington Nationals put together something resembling a possible Opening Day lineup for the first time, against the split-squad New York Mets.

This was Jayson Werth’s first start of the spring, after Werth was scratched several days ago with a minor bicep bruise.  Perhaps more interestingly, the lineup featured Bryce Harper in the fifth spot.  Matt Williams has made no definitive statements on what his Opening Day batting order will be, but he is considering batting Harper fifth, saying this:

I think back to my day, and the 5-spot is a really nice spot,” the manager said. “It allows him to get freed up a little bit. He’s not necessarily worried about running in front of the 3-4 guys, if he’s hitting 2. There’s a lot of cleanup RBIs there. And it may provide protection for the 3-4 guys as well, depending on the matchup, righty-lefty.

The Nationals fell behind early, but tied the game in the seventh before putting the game away with a 7-run eighth inning, winning by a final margin of 11-5.  Here once again is the good, the bad, and the ugly of Game 6.

THE GOOD

Gio Gonzalez was the last player of the Nats’ probable starters to make a Spring Training appearance, and he looked very strong today.  In his two innings, he allowed just a first inning Kirk Niewenhuis single, striking out one without walking a batter.  Gonzalez did struggle a little with fastball command, and the lineup he faced wasn’t exactly the ’27 Yankees — the only player in the Mets’ lineup who projects as a starter was the light-hitting Juan Lagares.   But Gonzalez pitched well enough, and will continue to build on this outing as he readies for the regular season.

Ian Desmond continues to look very strong with the bat this spring.  He took a fastball from University of Maryland alum Adam Kolarek over the right field fence for an opposite field home run, his second home run in the last two days.  In four games, Desmond has four hits in ten at bats, including a double and those two home runs.

– Top outfield prospect Brian Goodwin has had a rough time so far this spring.  In his first four games, he had managed just one hit, and had a few hiccups in the outfield.  But in the seventh inning today, Goodwin connected with a fastball from Mets’ righthander John Church, powering a game-tying two run home run off the light stanchion in right.  Goodwin has better than average power for a center fielder (he hit 10 home runs at AA Harrisburg last year), and that power was on full display today.

– The 7-run eighth inning featured another Nationals’ top prospect hitting a two-run home run.  Matt Skole, ranked just behind Goodwin at fourth in the Nationals’ system by Baseball America, took a Cory Mazzone offering just over the right field fence, scoring Goodwin and capping the scoring in the eighth.  It was Skole’s fourth hit in eleven at bats this spring, as the 24 year old continues to show he has fully healed from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in April 2013.

THE BAD

Denard Span had a rough game today, going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts, both against Mets’ starter Jennry Mejia.  But prior to this game, Span had looked everything like the leadoff hitter the Nationals hope he will be — three hits in six at-bats, with two stolen bases in two attempts.  Bad games will happen, and today, Denard Span had a bad game.

THE UGLY

– After an extremely poor first appearance (4 runs in two innings), Matt Purke came on the third inning with another chance to put his $4.4 million arm on display.  Purke got hit hard in the third, putting two on with one out, but managed to work out of the jam.  But in the fourth, Purke issued a one-out walk, then allowed consecutive singles to Eric Campbell and Zach Lutz, allowing a run to score.  After a groundout moved the runners to second and third, Purke allowed shortstop Anthony Seratelli, a 31-year old with no big league experience, to single to right, scoring two.  Purke’s line for the spring: 7 runs, 9 hits and 3 walks in 3 1/3 innings.

The Nationals meet the Braves for the third time this spring, tomorrow night at 6:05 at Champion Stadium in Orlando. Jordan Zimmermann will pitch for the Nationals; the Braves’ starter has not yet been announced. The game will not be televised, but can be heard on Gameday Audio through the Braves’ radio broadcast.

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