Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman each are in the Nats' lineup.
Sorry, it's still only March 16. But tonight's Grapefruit League game will be as close to a regular-season game as you're likely to see from the Nationals this spring. That includes Zimmerman in the field for the first time this spring. Look for him to be out at third base for about three or four innings, depending on how he feels and how quickly he can get two at-bats.
It also includes Strasburg both on the mound and at the plate. This is the first time this spring the Nats haven't used a DH, so the reigning NL Silver Slugger pitcher gets to take some hacks for the first time.
Plenty of updates to come, so please check back...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. HOUSTON ASTROS
Where: Space Coast Stadium, Viera
Gametime: 6:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: Astros radio via MLB Gameday Audio
Weather: Sunny, 71 degrees, Wind 8 mph in from LF
CF Denard Span
RF Jayson Werth
LF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Stephen Strasburg
LF Trevor Crowe
3B Brett Wallace
1B Carlos Pena
RF Fernando Martinez
CF Rick Ankiel
C Carlos Corporan
SS Marwin Gonzalez
2B Jake Elmore
RHP Lucas Harrell
6:08 p.m. -- And we're underway with a strike from Stephen Strasburg to Trevor Crowe. Beautiful night here ... aside from the brushfire that's been burning all afternoon off in the distance. Gotta love Viera.
6:22 p.m. -- Things got off to a big of a ragged start for Strasburg, who gave up a leadoff single to Crowe and then watched as Brett Wallace was awarded a single on a lazy flyball to left that Bryce Harper might have lost in the sun and the wind. But Strasburg rebounded to retire three in a row, striking out the last two he faced, including old pal Rick Ankiel. Or, as the local PA announcer called him, "Rick Anky-el."
6:25 p.m. -- Didn't take much for Lucas Harrell to retire the side in the bottom of the first. He got Denard Span to fly out to left on the first pitch, Jayson Werth to strike out on three pitches and Harper to tap a ball in front of the plate on the first pitch. Scoreless after one as Strasburg re-takes the mound already.
6:33 p.m. -- And there's Ryan Zimmerman's first fielding chance of the spring: a slow roller that he had to charge in on and then throw across his body. He pulled that play off flawlessly, as he almost always does. It's funny, even though that's a tougher play, everyone's more interested to see how he handles a routine grounder tonight. Strasburg is through two scoreless on 39 pitches (30 strikes). Still scoreless.
6:50 p.m. -- Strasburg is absolutely dealing right now. He just struck out the side in the top of the third, giving him four K's in a row and six overall. He broke off a couple of knee-buckling curveballs. He's through three scoreless innings on 52 pitches, 40 strikes.
6:56 p.m. -- Meanwhile, Harrell has been dealing himself and has now held the Nats' "A" lineup hitless through three innings. Nothing particularly well-struck so far off the right-hander. It's still 0-0 after three.
7:04 p.m. -- Uh-oh, just when Strasburg looked unhittable, striking out five in a row, old pal Rick Ankiel gets a hold of a fastball and sends it flying over the right-field wall for a solo homer. Is that any way to great a former teammate and friend? Guess so. Strasburg has otherwise been fantastic and is getting tremendous break on his curveball tonight. He's thrown 50 of 67 pitches for strikes through four innings. Should have one more in him. Nats now trail 1-0.
7:13 p.m. -- That'll do it for Zimmerman, who got four innings in the field and two at-bats. He wound up with only that one defensive chance, the slow roller in which he threw across his body. The Nats, by the way, are still hitless against Harrell.
7:21 p.m. -- What a heads-up play by Adam LaRoche to end the fifth inning. As Trevor Crowe roped a double to the gap in left-center, LaRoche trailed him around first base and actually wound up tagging him out at second base when Ian Desmond threw behind him. That's a play first basemen are supposed to make, but how often do you see a veteran actually do it in spring training? Impressive. As was Strasburg, whose night probably is done. His final line: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 81 pitches, 59 strikes. His only hiccup was the Ankiel homer. Still 1-0 in the middle of the fifth.
7:27 p.m. -- Er, I take that back. Strasburg is back out for the sixth, sitting on 81 pitches.
7:35 p.m. -- Now he's done for good after a flyout and a walk. Davey Johnson comes out to ask for the ball after Strasburg's 93rd pitch of the night. He also pulled Ramos, bringing in an entirely new battery of Craig Stammen and Chris Snyder. Ramos' signals must've been starting to come up in the zone, a sure sign of fatigue.
8:02 p.m. -- Ladies and gentlemen: Your 2013 Houston Astros! (You have my sympathies in advance, Bo.) They let not one but two routine balls in the air fall harmlessly to the ground in the bottom of the sixth, ultimately setting up a two-run inning for the Nats. Gonna be a tough year for Mr. Porter and Co. The Nats now lead 2-1 moving to the seventh.
8:30 p.m. -- A laborious eighth inning for Drew Storen, who was charged with three runs. It's been a bit of a ragged spring for Storen, who has pitched only two 1-2-3 innings in seven total appearances. Meanwhile, Ryan Zimmerman admitted he was a little nervous when he took the field for the first inning tonight but got more comfortable as the game progressed and emerged feeling good about the state of his shoulder. He would've liked another fielding chance or two but is confident he's good to go nine innings if needed. Nats now trail 4-2 in the 8th.
9:15 p.m. -- Game over. Nats lose 4-2.