Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Josh Willingham is tagged out trying to steal third in the second inning.
Manager Jim Riggleman, his coaching staff and some roster members were forced to make the trip back and forth from Viera the last two days, and they'll do the same tomorrow when the Nats play against the Mets in Port St. Lucie (only about 30 minutes north of Jupiter). Your trusty reporter, on the other hand, already checked out of his hotel yesterday and spent last night at another hotel only 10 minutes from this stadium. So I'm refreshed and ready to go.
John Lannan gets the start today, but there probably won't be much noteworthy about that. Lannan will only throw 70-75 pitches, as the Nats try to keep him fresh for Monday's season opener against the Phillies.
The larger storyline in this game will be Cristian Guzman's debut at second base. He did play one inning there yesterday -- and yes, I missed it completely because I was in the clubhouse interviewing Garrett Mock at the time -- but today he's starting. Guzman spent some considerable time this morning fielding grounders and turning double plays with Ian Desmond, who was at shortstop. Desmond (who has barely played any second base in his career) actually at one point walked over and showed Guzman the proper way to turn a double play without getting your legs broken by a hard-charging baserunner. Have to say, though, Guzman didn't look half-bad over there. As I type this, I'm also noticing he's working out at first base, taking throws in the dirt, etc., while wearing what I have to assume is someone else's first baseman's glove (Adam Dunn? Mike Morse?).
Check back for updates all afternoon...
NATIONALS AT CARDINALS
Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, Fla.
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Weather: Sunny, 73 degrees, Wind 8 mph in from LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Willie Harris
2B Cristian Guzman
LF Josh Willingham
1B Mike Morse
SS Ian Desmond
C Wil Nieves
3B Alberto Gonzalez
P John Lannan
2B Skip Schumaker
SS Brendan Ryan
1B Albert Pujols
LF Matt Holliday
RF Nick Stavinoha
CF Colby Rasmus
3B David Freese
C Matt Pagnozzi
P Adam Wainwright
1:07 p.m. We are underway with a strike from Wainwright to Morgan.
1:10 p.m. Wainwright could not have had an easier time retiring the side in the top of the first. Morgan flies out to center. Harris and Guzman each ground out to first.
1:15 p.m. Didn't take long for Guzman to get involved. With runners on first and second, no one out and Pujols at the plate, Lannan induced a hard grounder up the middle. Guzman moved nicely to his right to get the ball, then flipped to Desmond, who threw to first in time to complete the double play. Not a work of art, but it got the job done. Oh, the two runners got on thanks to a Desmond throwing error and a perfect bunt down the third-base line by Ryan.
1:41 p.m. OK, it's currently the top of the third, with the Cardinals leading 2-0. Both runs came in the first and were unearned, thanks to the Desmond throwing error and then another error charged to Willie Harris, who misplayed a fly ball to right and wound up slipping on the warning track and landing on his back, possibly hitting his head on the ground in the process. He stayed on the ground in obvious pain for a while, and Riggleman and a trainer went racing out to check on him. But Harris proved to be OK and remained in the game.
1:57 p.m. A very smooth 6-4-3 double play from Desmond and Guzman to end the third. The game is now tied 2-2 thanks to an RBI groundout from Harris followed by a run-scoring double by Guzman in the top of the inning.
2:31 p.m. The Nats' bats came alive in the top of the fifth, producing three runs. Guzman roped an RBI triple to right, extending his recent hot streak at the plate. The new utility infielder is now batting .310 (13-for-42) with six extra-base hits and seven RBI this spring. Of course, he still hasn't drawn a walk, so his OBP is also .310. Desmond, meanwhile, drilled an RBI double off the left-field wall to bring home another run. Nats now lead 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth.
2:54 p.m. Lannan's day (and his spring) is done. Gave up two unearned runs on three hits in five innings today, only needed 59 pitches. His final numbers over five solid spring starts: 2.91 ERA, 21 2/3 ip, 19 h, 7 er, 6 bb, 11 k. Next up: Monday vs. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
3:42 p.m. Was down in the clubhouse for a while talking to Lannan and Willie Harris (who's OK, by the way, after falling and hitting his head on the ground in the first inning). In the meantime, Matt Capps allowed two runs in the sixth and was pulled before recording three outs. The Nats now lead the Cardinals, 8-5, in the eighth inning of a game that has featured 20 combined hits and eight combined errors. Some quality baseball being played here today, folks.
4:08 p.m. Ballgame's over. Nats win, 9-6. Second time this spring they've beaten Adam Wainwright.