Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals face the Astros at Osceola County Stadium.
Just about everyone of consequence, though, did make the trip and will be playing here against the Astros. The only projected starters not in the lineup are Jayson Werth (who stayed back) and Adam LaRoche (who is nursing that sore shoulder).
Livan Hernandez gets the start, his final tune-up before Opening Day. In other rotation news, Ross Detwiler will start tomorrow against the Marlins, basically because the Nationals need someone to fill a gap to account for Friday's off-day in the middle of the season's first series against the Braves. John Lannan will start Monday against the Braves, with Jordan Zimmermann going Tuesday against the Mets. Which means the season-opening rotation should be set: Hernandez, Lannan, Zimmermann, Jason Marquis, Tom Gorzelanny. (UPDATE: Actually, Lannan will pitch in a minor-league game tomorrow so as to avoid facing a division opponent. The Nats will call up a minor-leaguer to make a spot start Monday.)
Plenty of updates to come, so check back throughout the afternoon...
NATIONALS at ASTROS
Where: Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM)
Weather: Sunny, 83 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to RF
STARTING LINEUPS1:05 p.m. -- And we're underway. Ian Desmond takes a strike from Henry Villar.
SS Ian Desmond
RF Laynce Nix
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Matt Stairs
LF Michael Morse
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
C Ivan Rodriguez
P Livan Hernandez
CF Jason Bourgeois
SS Angel Sanchez
RF Hunter Pence
LF Carlos Lee
1B Brett Wallace
3B Chris Johnson
2B Oswaldo Navarro
C Robinson Cancel
P Henry Villar
1:10 p.m. -- The Nats go down in order in the top of the first, though Desmond crushed a line drive to left that was caught and Ryan Zimmerman hit a sharp grounder to shortstop.
1:12 p.m. -- Forgot to mention this earlier, but Adam LaRoche, who is sitting out this weekend to rest his sore shoulder, will return to the lineup Monday, according to Jim Riggleman. The manager wasn't sure what the results from LaRoche's MRI showed, but it obviously wasn't anything significant enough to prevent him from returning to play.
1:16 p.m. -- Livan Hernandez allowed a leadoff single to Jason Bourgeois -- a sharp grounder past a diving Matt Stairs at first base -- but proceeded to retire the next three Astros without letting the ball leave the infield. Scoreless after one.
1:22 p.m. -- Michael Morse strikes again. Crushed a two-run, opposite-field homer off Villar. That's his eighth of the spring, gives him 17 RBI and raises his average to .373. Nats lead 2-0.
1:33 p.m. -- Ivan Rodriguez may not be the catcher he once was, but he's still got a few bullets left in his right arm, as he just showed in gunning down Brett Wallace trying to steal second. Of course, Pudge also grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the top of the second, something we're probably going to see plenty of this season.
1:48 p.m. -- Laynce Nix is trying his best to make this club. He absolutely roped a double down the right-field line in the top of the third, scoring Desmond (who doubled in front of him) to make it 3-0. Moments later, Ryan Zimmerman beat out a broken-bat slow roller to the right side of the infield, showing no ill effects from his sore groin. Matt Stairs added a sac fly to score Nix and give the Nats a 4-0 lead.
2:06 p.m. -- Nothing much doin' while I was down in the stands shooting photos. Livo is cruising along at a brisk pace, having retired eight of the last nine batters he's faced. Nats still lead 4-0 as we go to the bottom of the fourth.
2:26 p.m. -- Kind of a crazy top of the fifth just now. Astros reliever Enerio Del Rosario issued two walks, committed an error, allowed an infield single and then nearly was decapitated by a comebacker from Danny Espinosa. After all that, the Nats only scored one run. So it's now 5-0, and Livo is surprisingly done for the day. His final line: 4 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 1 k, 52 pitches, 29 strikes. Don't think anything's wrong with him. Just a matter of the Nats wanting to give their bullpen some work. Collin Balester has entered to pitch the bottom of the fifth.
2:49 p.m. -- Just got back from talking to Livo in the clubhouse, and lo and behold the Nats scored two more runs to take a commanding 7-0 lead. As for the big Cuban right-hander, he said he was dealing with a stiff neck all afternoon, which is why he came out after four innings. He insisted, though, it won't prevent him from starting on Opening Day or have any effect on his outing. Livo also had one of the best lines of the spring. He mentioned that this could very well be the last time he starts on Opening Day in his career, not necessarily because of anything he does but because Stephen Strasburg will almost certainly get the assignment next year. As Livo put it: "Sometimes you play golf and birdie doesn't win the hole."
3:05 p.m. -- Two more scoreless innings for Collin Balester, who allowed one hit and struck out one. His ERA is now down to 1.59, and he's got an 11-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Plain and simple, the guy couldn't have made a stronger case for himself to make the club. Doesn't mean he'll make it, but if he doesn't, it won't be his fault.
3:10 p.m. -- Meanwhile, Tyler Clippard puts up another scoreless frame himself, building off his nice appearance two nights ago in Lakeland. Between Clippard, Balester, Sean Burnett, Doug Slaten, Chad Gaudin, Brian Broderick and Drew Storen, Nationals relievers have really pitched well over the last week or so. The only blip in the bullpen has been Todd Coffey, who is about to pitch the eighth.
3:15 p.m. -- Ladies and gentlemen: Jonathan Van Every with the three-run homer that turns this one into a rout. It's 10-0 Nats.
3:25 p.m. -- Even Coffey is getting into the act with his own 1-2-3 inning of relief. We head to the ninth, with Sean Burnett preparing to record the final three outs and seal the Nats' fifth straight win.
3:36 p.m. -- Ballgame. Nats win 10-0. That's their fifth straight win. And at 15-12 with three games to go, they're now assured of finishing with at least a .500 spring training record for the first time since the franchise arrived in D.C.