The Washington Nationals played with split squads on Wednesday, sending mostly minor leaguers and prospects to Kissimmee to face the Houston Astros. That left a team of mostly MLB regulars to host the New York Mets, including starter Jordan Zimmermann, who was roughed up in his last spring training outing.
After some initial shakiness, Zimmermann had little trouble this time out, carving up the Mets and leading the Nats to an 8-5 win at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL.
Zimmermann tossed 4 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run (three total) on four hits and two walks, striking out six.
Zimmermann retired his first two hitters easily, popping up Collin Cowgill and striking out Justin Turner. But consecutive singles by Ike Davis and Marlon Byrd, plus an uncharactaristic walk to Lucas Duda loaded the bases in the first inning. Rookie catcher Travis d’Arnaud sent a ground ball to first, where normally reliable Adam LaRoche couldn’t come up with the play. Two runs scored where none should have.
The Nats starter then went three innings allowing just one hitter to reach. Zimmermann’s only other trouble was in the fifth. A leadoff single by Wilmer Flores started the frame. Zimmermann then got two quick outs and looked like he would escape without damage. But he walked Ike Davis on two borderline pitches, and manager Davey Johnson decided that Zimmermann had reached his pitch limit for the day.
Reliever Craig Stammen coughed up a single to Byrd, his first hitter, and Flores chugged home from second to close the book on Zimmermann.
The Nats jumped on Mets rookie starter Matt Harvey from the get-go. Denard Span drew a leadoff, four-pitch walk and Jayson Werth reached on an error by Brian Bixler at short. The mistake loomed large, as Bryce Harper hammered a 1-2 pitch to deep right, giving the Nats a 3-2 early lead on Harper’s third home run of the spring.
Harper is hitting .444/.459/.806 this spring.
The Nats would stick on three runs until the seventh inning. Danny Espinosa (2-for-4, two runs) leadoff with a single and took second when Span walked again with two outs against Mets reliever Bobby Parnell. Tyler Moore ripped a single to right to plate Espinosa, Harper (2-for-4, two runs, four RBIs) went to left for a two-run double and Ryan Zimmerman (2-for-4, RBI) singled to center to bring in Harper. The four-run inning gave the Nats a 6-4 lead, one they would never relinquish.
For good measure, the Nats tacked on a run in the eighth on an Espinosa double and Kurt Suzuki RBI single.
The Nationals host the Astros Thursday at 1:05 pm at Space Coast Stadium.