Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Osceola County Stadium, spring training home of the Houston Astros.
Cast aside by the Nationals over the winter, Hernandez hooked up with the Astros on a minor-league contract. By all accounts, he's pretty much assured of a spot in their Opening Day rotation, and the Nats' all-time leader in wins and starts will be on the mound today wearing his ninth different big-league cap.
Livo will be facing a Nationals lineup that features more regulars than saw action yesterday against Georgetown (Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Rick Ankiel chief among them). All eyes, though, will once again be on Bryce Harper, who is starting in right field and batting seventh. Can't wait to see the 19-year-old try to put wood on Livo's 59-mph Bugs Bunny curveball.
No TV today (Bob and F.P. will be on tomorrow from Space Coast Stadium) but Charlie and Dave will have their first radio call of the year. And, of course, I'll have plenty of updates and analysis here throughout, so be sure to check back...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. HOUSTON ASTROS
Where: Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), XM 185
Weather: Sunny, 86 degrees, Wind 16 mph out to CF
STARTING LINEUPS12:09 p.m. -- Not to distract too much from the game thread, but since we've got an hour to kill until first pitch, be sure to read my just-posted article on Jayson Werth, who will be starting tomorrow in ... center field.
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
1B Chad Tracy
DH Jason Michaels
3B Mark Teahen
RF Bryce Harper
LF Roger Bernadina
C Jesus Flores
(P Edwin Jackson)
LF J.B. Shuck
2B Jose Altuve
RF Travis Buck
DH Jack Cust
3B Chris Johnson
SS Jed Lowrie
1B Brett Wallace
CF Jason Bourgeois
C Jason Castro
(P Livan Hernandez)
1:09 p.m. -- And we are underway as Livan Hernandez lobs a sinker over the plate to Ian Desmond for strike one. No radar gun here at Osceola County Stadium, but even if they had one, it probably wouldn't have registered.
1:16 p.m. -- Pretty typical Livo in the top of the first: Slow, slower and even slower. And it worked. Desmond did work the count, fouling off three straight pitches, but then grounded out meekly to shortstop. Danny Espinosa was caught looking at a sinker on the inside corner. Rick Ankiel got a hold of one and sent a ball off the center field fence, legging out a triple (though, honestly, that would've been a routine flyout if the wind wasn't blowing straight out). Chad Tracy then lofted his own fly ball to center, this one staying shallow enough for Jason Bourgeois to haul it in. Scoreless as Edwin Jackson takes the mound for the bottom of the first.
1:29 p.m. -- Jackson's first batter faced as a member of the Nationals: A five-pitch walk. Oy. He also threw first-pitch balls to the Astros' first three hitters. Double oy. By inning's end, he had thrown 21 total pitches, only 10 of them strikes. Triple oy. However, he sustained no damage, thanks in large part to a 4-6-3 double play he induced off Travis Buck's bat. It's obvious this guy has got great stuff, but it's also obvious his consistency is a question mark. Scoreless after two.
1:37 p.m. -- Yes! Livo starts off Bryce Harper with Bugs Bunny himself. Big swing and a miss from the kid on that curveball at his ankles. But credit to Harper, who hung in there and rapped Hernandez's 2-1 pitch on the ground through the right side of the infield for his first base hit of the spring. Nothing else doing for the Nats, though, because Jason Michaels (after leading off with a single) was thrown out trying to steal second. Mark Teahen then struck out looking at Mr. Bugs Bunny. Roger Bernadina ended the inning with a soft liner to short. Still 0-0 heading to the bottom of the second.
1:45 p.m. -- Well, Jackson seems to have this 4-6-3 thing down. He just induced his second double play in as many innings. He did, however, walk his second batter in as many innings right before that. Looks like his afternoon is done. Final line: 2 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 2 bb, 0 k, 28 pitches, 12 strikes. Top of the third now, Kyle Weiland in to replace Livo, whose final line reads: 2 ip, 3 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 2 k, 33 pitches, 23 strikes.
1:55 p.m. -- A leadoff double by Jesus Flores (which nearly cleared the fence in left-center) goes to waste as Desmond strikes out on a breaking ball in the dirt, Espinosa grounds out to first and Ankiel grounds out to second. It's still scoreless heading to the bottom of the third as Ross Detwiler enters from the Nationals bullpen.
2:04 p.m. -- Good stuff from Detwiler in the bottom of the third. His fastball had some life, and he had several Astros reaching for pitches on the outside corner. Got a groundout and a routine fly to center, then got a weak grounder to third that Teahen couldn't quite corral (resulting in an infield single). Detwiler then caught Jose Altuve looking at strike three to end the inning. Still scoreless.
2:18 p.m. -- Well, so much for the upbeat take on Detwiler. Things went decidedly downhill for him in the bottom of the fourth, though he did begin with another called strikeout on an outside fastball. Unfortunately, he then walked Jack Cust after getting ahead of him 0-2. Then Chris Johnson destroyed a 1-0 pitch to center field for a two-run homer. I mean, even if the wind wasn't blowing out, it still would've gone 420 feet. Just a laser over the fence. Detwiler rebounded to get a popout and then struck out Brett Wallace, but his day ends on a less-positive note than it began. His final line: 2 ip, 2 h, 2 r, 1 bb, 3 k. Astros lead 2-0 after four.
2:27 p.m. -- Harper's second at-bat of the day came against new Houston closer Brett Myers, who had his way with the 19-year-old. Got ahead of him 0-2 on fastballs, then got Harper to ground out on a breaking ball. Bernadina, though, responded with a drive off the center-field wall for a double. And moments later, Flores delivered his second double of the day (this one down the right-field line, scoring Bernadina). It's 2-1 Astros as we go to the bottom of the fifth and Chad Durbin enters to pitch.
3:01 p.m. -- Just got back from a visit to both teams' clubhouses. Talked to Edwin Jackson, who said his biggest issue today was timing. He threw 15 extra pitches in the bullpen to work on that and felt better about things afterward. Over on the Astros' side, Livan Hernandez was his usual self. On facing the Nats, he said: "It's tough, but you've got to do your job. We're still friends." I asked him if at the end of the season he felt like there was any chance he might come back to Washington. He said a few people with the team said they wanted him back, but "inside, I was like, 'Yeah, right.'" Livo has no hard feelings toward Davey Johnson, Mike Rizzo and the rest of the organization, though. He understands this is a business. I'll have plenty more on him in a full article later. In the meantime, the Nats still trail 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh. Bryce Harper's day is done. He went 1-for-3 with a single and a pair of groundballs to second. Chad Durbin tossed two innings of scoreless relief. Atahualpa Severino now on the mound.
3:28 p.m. -- We go to the ninth, and it's now 3-1 Astros after Severino gave up a run in the seventh (aided in part by an error on third baseman Carlos Rivero). Sean Burnett tossed a scoreless eighth, which could actually be a bad sign for Burnett, who earlier in the week was talking about how his perfect 2011 spring wasn't actually good because it didn't allow him enough time to work on his offspeed pitches.
3:33 p.m. -- That's a final. Nats lose 3-1 and are officially 0-1 in the Grapefruit League. Plenty of reaction and analysis to come, so check the homepage later for all of that.