3:00, MID 7: Three at-bats, three ground balls to the right side for the day. The Nats still trail, 2-1, after two scoreless innings by Chad Durbin. Harper has been pulled in favor of Xavier Paul.
Edwin Jackson threw 15 extra pitches in the bullpen after his start, a session that helped him correct a “timing” issue he’d been having with his new mechanics, which he developed to hide the ball better in his delivery. The glitch to his wildness with his fastball, but Jackson felt good about the day, especially his offspeed pitches.
2:27, TOP 5: In his second at-bat, Bryce Harper dropped his average to .500. He hit a hard groundball to second on an 0-2 pitch from Brett Myers. He showed his speed getting down the line.
Roger Bernadina smashed a double off the center field fence, and Jesus Flores followed with another double, his second, into the right field corner. 2-1, Astros. Edwin Jackson is about to meet with reporters, so updates will be slim for a while.
2:19, BOT 4: Just as Ross Detwiler was looking awfully impressive, striking out Travis Buck to start off the inning, his outing took a sharp downturn. He got an 0-2 count on Jack Cust and then ended up walking him. Chris Johnson followed by pulverizing a 1-0 fastball over the 410-foot mark in center. 2-0, Astros.
2:05, END 3: Detwiler was sharp in his first inning, good zip on his fastball and sharp break on his slider. He struck out Altuve, a hard guy to strike out, looking at a a backdoor slider. Shuck reached base, but only a dribbling infield single to third base that Teahen couldn’t come up with. Still scoreless.
1:55, MID 3: Jesus Flores led off by drilled a double off the left-center fence off new pitcher Kyle Weiland. The Nats couldn’t bring home. Desmond chased a breaking ball off the plate and in the dirt, while Espinosa and Ankiel grounded out.
Detwiler is indeed coming in for the Nats.
1:46, END 2: Edwin Jackson issued another walk in the second inning, but again he helped himself with a 4-6-3 double play. Ian Desmond made the turn on the twin killing and also made the first out of the inning. He looks really calm, under control in the field, smoother than in the past.
Jackson is probably done, as Ross Detwiler is warming up in the bullpen. Jackson allowed no runs, one hit and two walks, striking out none in two innings.
1:39, BOT 2: Bryce Harper is batting 1.000 in the Grapefruit League. Hernandez started him off with one of his cartoon curves. Harper swung out of his shoes and whiffed. But on the 2-1 pitch, Harper yanked a sinker through the right side for a singe.
Jason Michaels had led off with a single to center, but he got thrown out trying to steal. Livo froze Mark Teahen with a curveball. Bernadina ended the inning with a weak flare to short.
1:29, END 1: Edwin Jackson, who walked seven in his final start of 2011 in the World Series, started his Nationals spring training career by walking J.B.Shuck on five pitches. Jose Altuve followed with a groundball single. Jackson, though, got Travis Buck to ground into a 4-6-3 double play, turned beautifully by Espinosa and Desmond. Jackson went to a 3-2 count on Jack Cust before getting out of the inning with a grounder to Espinosa. 0-0.
1:19, MID 1: Livo struck out Danny Espinosa with one of his great front-hip cutters, freezing Espinosa when it cut back over the inside corner. Rick Ankiel blasted a first-pitch triple off the center field fence. The wind is really blowing out, but Ankiel crushed it. Chad Tracy flied out to deep center.
1:10, TOP 1: There are a significant amount of Nationals fans in the crowd today, far more that we’re used to seeing. Plenty of Harper and Strasburg jerseys.
Ian Desmond led off by with a seven-pitch at-bat against Livan Hernandez, which ended with a sharp grounder right at the shortstop on a looping curve.
The other day, Desmond told a great story from his first spring training with the Nationals. He was facing Hernandez in live batting practice and, as such, he knew what pitch was coming. He teed off on a sinker, crushing it over the fence. The next time Desmond stepped up, Hernandez and catcher Brian Schneider told Desmond another sinker was coming. Hernandez, though, twirled one of his cartoon curveballs. Desmond ducked out of the way and to the dirt in the batter’s box, a little rookie hazing.
PREGAME: The Nationals are about to begin what should be a fun Grapefruit League opener. Livan Hernandez is pitching for the Astros. Bryce Harper is batting seventh. Edwin Jackson is making his first Nationals start. The wind is blowing out at Osceola County Stadium. You can listen to today’s game on 106.7 The Fan, with Charlie and Dave on the call. First pitch at 1 p.m. We’ll have a few updates here as well, with the newest at the top.