Yesterday, we at Serious Jammage took the day off in order to soak up the beautiful DC weather, which finally felt more like spring than winter. Today, the weather was miserable once again, so we’re back in action. At any rate, the Nationals had a split-squad day, keeping the starters at Space Coast Stadium in Viera (where the weather is seemingly always beautiful) to play the Tigers, and sending the reserves to Kissimmee to play the Astros. Here now is the good, the bad, and the ugly from the 2-1 loss to the Tigers.
— Jordan Zimmermann struggled with command in the first inning, but recovered well to put togather a fourth consecutive strong start. In that first inning, Zimmermann gave up a leadoff single to Rajai Davis, then hit Ian Kinsler with a fastball that ran too far inside. Davis and Kinsler managed a double steal, and Davis came around to score on a Don Kelly groundout. But Zimmermann was near-flawless over the next three innings, allowing just three hits and a walk. He struck out three, including a called strikeout of Rajai Davis, whom he caught looking at a slider away:
— Ryan Zimmerman played seven innings today, including the first two innings he has played at first base in his professional career. He moved to first in the sixth, and almost immediately got his first chance at the not-so-hot corner:
As you can see, Zimmerman looked to second to turn a double play, but bobbled the ball, and had to settle for the one out. This was the only ball hit to Zimmerman in his two innings at first, though he managed to record four additional putouts. He also went 1-3 with a double at the plate.
— At age 25, southpaw Sammy Solis is trying to prove he is ready to make a big league roster. The 2010 second round pick, who suffered a career setback when he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012, made just his second appearance of the spring today, after being held out with back spasms. Solis threw two hitless innings, and while he didn’t strike anyone out, he managed four groundball outs of the six he recorded. Solis’ fastball hit 93 MPH on the radar gun (which seemed to be running a little slow), and seems poised to insinuate himself into the conversation for a spot in the Nationals’ bullpen.
— With the wind blowing in, and with two upper-echelon starters in Zimmermann and Justin Verlander on the mound, the odds were stacked against offense today. The Tigers managed just two runs on seven hits in the game, and it was even worse for the Nationals. Against Verlander, the Nationals were held hitless for the first four innings, with Verlander striking out three and looking dominant. With two out in the fifth, the Nationals finally managed to break through against Verlander, with Adam LaRoche lining a 1-0 fastball to center:
It didn’t get too much better after Verlander left — the Nationals managed to manufacture a run without a hit in the seventh, but managed just a Ryan Zimmerman double and a Jhonatan Solano single in the final four frames.
— The Nationals have been quite aggressive on the basepaths thus far this spring, and they got a taste of their own medicine today. Against starting catcher Jose Lobaton (who threw out only 14% of base stealers with the Rays last year), the Tigers stole three bases, including the double steal by Davis and Kinsler that set up the Tigers’ first run. Then in the eighth, Lobaton’s replacement Jhonatan Solano allowed three more steals, including two to ertswile Nat Steve Lombardozzi, who stole second and third, scoring the game-winning run on a Danny Worth double. The Nationals have struggled with holding baserunners in the past — they threw out just 17% of base stealers last year, well below the league average of 28%. It’s only Spring Training, but if this continues to be a problem, it will be a frustrating one indeed.