Photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Former president George H.W. Bush (second from right) and wife Barbara (left) are here.
Well, actually, that's not entirely true. The system that passed through the state of Florida the last two days has left a vicious wind in its wake. So we've got a stiff, 21-mph breeze blowing out to right field today at Osceola County Stadium. Scott Olsen and Co. will have to be careful not to leave the ball up in the zone, lest they want to add to the Nationals' already unsightly spring pitching numbers.
Check back for updates throughout the day, and check out other new posts for non-game-related stuff...
NATIONALS AT ASTROS
Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV/Radio: Astros radio via XM and MLB Gameday Audio
Weather: Sunny, 71 degrees, Wind 21 mph out to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
LF Willie Harris
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Chris Duncan
DH Josh Willingham
2B Adam Kennedy
RF Justin Maxwell
SS Ian Desmond
C Wil Nieves
(P Scott Olsen)
CF Jason Bourgeois
2B Jeff Keppinger
RF Hunter Pence
LF Carlos Lee
1B Geoff Blum
3B Pedro Feliz
C Jason Castro
DH Humberto Quintero
SS Edwin Maysonet
(P Bud Norris)
11:32 a.m. -- Change to the Nats' lineup. Elijah Dukes was scratched due to a minor injury to his left foot; he was hit by a pitch the last game he played, and though it's not considered serious, the Nats wanted to be cautious because the field is very soft and muddy today following all the rain. Justin Maxwell will now start in right field and bat seventh.
11:50 a.m. -- An update on Cristian Guzman, who is still back in Washington after his wife gave birth the other night. Jim Riggleman said the shortstop is due to fly back to Viera either tomorrow night or Monday morning. He won't rejoin the lineup immediately, will have to get back into the swing of things, especially with his throwing. Asked if there's any concern Guzman's surgically repaired shoulder won't be 100 percent by Opening Day, Riggleman said: "I think 'concern' is a little bit of a strong word. I thought he was throwing the ball OK, maybe not 100 percent, but I thought he was throwing it OK. Guzie's a veteran. I think he paces himself with his arm. He's probably holding back a little bit right now. The information we have from the doctors is that he's recovered extremely well. Now it's just a matter of building arm strength. I don't think we're going to have an issue with that. If we do, we're just going to have to read that, how the ball is coming out of his hand, and is he going to be ready?"
12:51 p.m. -- Other Nats pitchers scheduled to throw today: Matt Chico, Drew Storen, Matt Capps, Sean Burnett.
12:54 p.m. -- George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush in attendance today.
1:16 p.m. -- Not much doing for the Nats in the top of the first against Bud Norris. Nyjer Morgan grounds out. Willie Harris gets hit by a pitch in the foot and steals second. But Ryan Zimmerman flies out to left and after a Chris Duncan walk, Josh Willingham flies out to right to end the inning.
1:26 p.m. -- Shaky start for Scott Olsen. Jason Bourgeois sends a deep drive to the wall in left-center that neither Nyjer Morgan nor Willie Harris could track down, leading to a triple that could have been an inside-the-park homer if Bourgeois wanted to give it a shot. Jeff Proletariat ... er, Keppinger then sends a drive to deep right-center for an RBI double. The wind definitely aided both hits, but each was still struck with authority. A trio of flyouts ends the inning, so all five batters hit the ball in the air to the outfield. Fourteen pitches for Olsen, nine of them strikes. Astros lead 1-0 after one.
1:34 p.m. -- The Nats as a team may not be hitting this spring, but Ian Desmond sure is. He just roped another double to right-center, raising an average that coming in was already at .471. Nothing doing for the rest of the guys, though, as Adam Kennedy hits a soft liner back to the mound, Justin Maxwell strikes out and Wil Nieves grounds out to third.
1:41 p.m. -- Olsen looked better in the second. After allowing a leadoff single to right to Pedro Feliz, he struck out Jason Castro on a nice breaking ball, then got Humberto Quintero to pop out and Edwin Maysonet to line out to right. Still 1-0 Astros after two, Olsen has thrown 25 pitches, 15 strikes.
Photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ryan Zimmerman sent a solo homer to right field in the third inning.
2:01 p.m. -- Olsen showing some signs of improvement as his afternoon moved on. Retired five in a row at one point before Hunter Pence laced a double to left in the third. Carlos Lee flied out to deep left, though, to end the inning, so Olsen is done. Final line: 3 ip, 4 h, 1 er, 0 bb, 1 k, 41 pitches, 27 strikes. I'll try to find out what his radar gun readings were.
2:18 p.m. -- Drew Storen enters for the fourth and picks up right where he left off last time, pumping strikes. Punched out Geoff Blum on three pitches. Got ahead of Pedro Feliz, 0-2, then was victimized when Chris Duncan couldn't overcome the wind on a pop up behind first base. Cheap single, the first off Storen this spring. Jason Castro (Storen's former batterymate at Stanford drew a walk, then Humberto Quintero fouled out to first and then got Edwin Maysonet looking at a great breaking ball to end the inning. Fifteen pitches, 11 strikes. Nats still lead 2-1 after four.
2:30 p.m. -- A little "small ball" produces two more runs for the Nationals. Willie Harris beats out a bunt, steals second, takes third on Ryan Zimmerman's single to right, then scores on Chris Duncan's groundout. Josh Willingham then singles to left to bring Zimmerman home and make it 4-1. Matt Capps coming on for the bottom of the fifth. Looks like Matt Chico will be pitching the final three innings of the day so the relievers can get work earlier against Houston's regulars.
2:43 p.m. -- Both horrible and fantastic defense from the Nats in the fifth. Chris Duncan boots another routine pop-up at first base, and Nyjer Morgan lets a fly ball bounce right off his glove moments later. But Justin Maxwell saves the day with a diving catch on a sinking liner to right, bailing out Matt Capps. Capps wasn't especially sharp -- 11 of 19 pitches for strikes -- and he walked a batter. But with better defense, the inning might have looked much cleaner. Still 4-1 through five.
2:49 p.m. -- The Nats have come to play (finally). Maxwell doubles. Desmond drives him in with a single up the middle. Nieves singles to left. That makes it 5-1, with Matt Chico now emerging from the bullpen trying to protect the lead.
3:05 p.m. -- Not a good start to Chico's second outing of the spring. Walked Castro on five pitches, then allowed a single to Quintero and a two-run double to Maysonet down the third-base line. Some nice infield defense from Desmond and Zimmerman saved Chico, but he really labored through the inning, needing 28 pitches to get through it. It's now 5-3 after six.
3:38 p.m. -- Even worse second frame for Chico. Gave up four runs and six hits without retiring a batter, including a pair of RBI doubles, one of them to the wall in right-center. Final line for the lefty: 1+ ip, 8 h, 6 er, 1 bb, 0 k. Not that one appearance will shatter a guy's chances altogether of making the rotation, but Chico absolutely did not help himself one bit today. The Astros now lead 7-5 after seven, and the Nats will need to rally to avoid falling to an astounding 0-9 in the Grapefruit League.
3:51 p.m. -- The Nats draw to within a run, thanks exclusively to Justin Maxwell, who singled, stole second, took third when the catcher's throw scooted away and then scored on a wild pitch. So it's 7-6 Astros heading to the bottom of the eighth. Sean Burnett will try to keep the deficit at one and give his teammates a chance to win it.
4:09 p.m. -- What's this: A ninth-inning rally? Believe it. Willie Harris draws a leadoff walk. Eric Bruntlett drills a double to left-center. Mike Morse then brings the tying run home with a groundout to second, Harris scampering home. But the go-ahead run is stranded at third, so we're heading to the bottom of the ninth tied at 7. Burnett taking the mound for his second inning. If it goes extras, Andrew Kown is the lone remaining Nats pitcher here.
4:18 p.m. -- So much for that. Burnett issues a walk and allows two singles to left, giving the Astros an 8-7 win and the Nationals an 0-9 record for the spring after all. George and Barbara stayed for the whole thing, too, though it's entirely possible Mrs. Bush fell asleep at some point.