Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats are back at Osceola County Stadium ... again.
I'm guessing George and Barbara Bush won't be in attendance this time as they were Saturday, but you will be pleased to know Adam Dunn will be here. After coming out of yesterday's game with lower back spasms, the Nats' slugger made the trip as promised and will be starting at first base.
Jason Marquis on the mound, making only his second official start of the spring (his last one was rained out). And there's a threat of some light rain this afternoon.
If you didn't see the earlier, shocking news: Elijah Dukes has been given his unconditional release. In slightly less shocking news: Logan Kensing also has been given his unconditional release.
Check back for updates throughout the day, and check out other new posts for non-game-related stuff, including a deeper analysis of the Dukes move...
NATIONALS AT ASTROS
Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV/Radio: Astros radio via XM and MLB Gameday Audio
Weather: Cloudy, 64 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to RF
RF Willy Taveras
SS Cristian Guzman
CF Justin Maxwell
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Eric Bruntlett
C Wil Nieves
P Jason Marquis
CF Michael Bourn
2B Kaz Matsui
RF Hunter Pence
LF Carlos Lee
1B Chris Shelton
3B Chris Johnson
SS Tommy Manzella
C Humberto Quintero
P Wandy Rodriguez
1:14 p.m. -- We're underway, and we've got a surprise already. Adam Dunn did not start after all. Chris Duncan is batting cleanup and apparently playing first base. Dunn did make the trip and was in the clubhouse getting treatment on his back this morning and was on the field during BP. I'll update with any more info on him. The Nats, meanwhile, went down in the top of the first against Wandy Rodriguez.
1:18 p.m. -- Official word is that Dunn was held out strictly for precautionary reasons. With an off-day tomorrow, he can rest more and not have to play until Friday. Doesn't explain why he made the trip today, though.
1:28 p.m. -- Here's the last thing you wanted to hear: Jason Marquis is getting rocked by the Astros. Gave up FIVE runs in the bottom of the first. In order: Single to left. Walk. RBI single to left. Walk. Strikeout. Three-run double to right-center by Chris Johnson. Groundout. RBI double to right. Lineout. Just like that, it's Astros 5-0 after one inning.
1:47 p.m. -- And the hits keep on comin' against Marquis in the second. RBI double by Carlos Lee. Sac fly by Chris Shelton. It's now 7-0, and Marquis' line reads as follows: 2 ip, 6 h, 7 er, 3 bb, 0 k. U-G-L-Y.
1:55 p.m. -- Willy Taveras, a man who owns eight home runs in 643 career big-league games, just blasted a solo shot to left to put the Nats on the board. Cristian Guzman follows with a gap shot to left-center and gets those legs cranking to turn it into a triple. Justin Maxwell, however, can't bring Guzie home. He strikes out to end the inning. Astros lead 7-1 in the middle of the third.
2:02 p.m. -- A much-needed, 1-2-3 inning from Marquis, who sets down the bottom of the Houston order in the third to keep things in check. He'll throw one more inning before his afternoon is complete.
2:09 p.m. -- Josh Willingham hammers the ball to left field for a solo homer in the fourth. Danny Espinosa (starting for the second straight day) whiffs badly for the second straight time. It's 7-2 after 3 1/2 innings.
2:17 p.m. -- Marquis can't make it through his requisite four innings. Michael Bourn leads off with a single ... for the third straight time today. Kaz Matsui draws a walk ... for the third straight time today. Hunter Pence drills his second single of the day, and that's all she wrote. Josh Wilkie on in a mop-up role. For Marquis: 3.1 ip, 8 h, 8 er, 4 bb, 1 k. He's still responsible for one runner on base.
2:25 p.m. -- Marquis' total spring numbers after two official starts: 5.1 ip, 11 h, 13 er, 7 bb, 1 k. ERA is 21.94.
2:45 p.m. -- Yet another ragged appearance from Matt Capps. He walks the leadoff man in the fifth, then later allows an RBI single to center and uncorks a wild pitch. The Nats' new closer has now been scored upon in five of his six outings this spring, allowing a total of nine hits and five walks.
2:57 p.m. -- What do you know, Tyler Walker allowed a home run to the first batter he faced today. Jason Michaels crushes a 3-1 pitch to left-center to put the Astros ahead 10-2 in the sixth. Fifth home run allowed by Walker in four outings this spring.
3:20 p.m. -- Marquis believes his troubles today were mechanical and can be fixed, though he wasn't happy with the results. "I just didn't have a feel for anything: my delivery, the ball coming out of my hand. I've just got to go back to the drawing board and try to feel comfortable throwing the baseball. I have an idea what I want to work on. Asked if this poor spring concerns him at all, seeing how there's less than three weeks to go, he said: "I think it would've four or five years ago. Not so much now. Ultimately, if it keeps going like this ... you want to see results. You don't want to embarrass yourself or embarrass your team out there with outings like that."
3:25 p.m. -- Adam Dunn said his back felt fine taking BP today but became an issue when tried to field grounders. He's still not worried this is anything serious, though, and believes he'll play Friday. "If this wasn't March 17 and it's April 17, then I'm playing," he said.
3:28 p.m. -- Drew Storen, by the way, allowed a run in the seventh on a hit, a walk, a hit-by-pitch and a sac fly. Astros now lead 11-2 heading to the eighth.
3:45 p.m. -- That's a final. Nats lose, 11-2, fall to 2-12 in the Grapefruit League. They'll enjoy their one and only off day of the spring tomorrow, then return Friday night to host the Cardinals, with Stephen Strasburg on the mound.
4:09 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman on Marquis: "He just didn't throw strikes. He was consistently missing down. That's a good place to miss if you're going to miss. But it just wasn't tempting enough to get guys to swing, so he was consistently behind in the count. Just did not have it."
4:12 p.m. -- Riggleman on the pressure on Walker to get his act together quickly or else risk not making the club: "We've got almost three weeks to go yet. So for a reliever, there's still a lot of appearances to get out there and redeem yourself, pitch better. I don't know that the word is pressure. He knows he's better than that, and he's going to have to show it."