End, 9:22: Bixler struck out. Nats lose, 7-6. They fall to 8-5. Fireworks at Space Coast Stadium!
Bot 9, 9:18: The Nats got RBI singles up the middle from Nyjer Morgan and Bryce Harper (now batting .388 this spring) and also scored a run on a passed ball. It’s 7-6, and Brian Bixler can tie with a single.
End 8, 8:57 Chris Marrero struck out with the bases loaded to keep it at 7-3. Nyjer Morgan led off the inning with a walk, then stole second, his third steal of the spring against being caught twice.
Mid 8, 8:40: The Astros have 16 hits, and they’re up 7-3. Last inning, Jesus Flores mashed a two-run homer to right-center, his first hit of the spring and first hit on a big league field since 2009. Ross Detwiler gave up another run after a leadoff triple. A blemish on his excellent spring, but not quite a disaster.
Bryce Harper is in the hole as Nyjer Morgan leads off the eighth.
Top 7, 8:15: Back up from the clubhouse, where Livan Hernandez explained he wants to work on his inside fastball. He couldn’t get it to cut back over the corner of the plate like he wanted to.
Meanwhile, there’s notable plays. Bryce Harper entered as a pinch-runner for Jayson Werth, who walked. Ryan Zimmerman hit a grounder to short, and after the shortstop made the throw across the diamond, Harper hustled to third. Unlike his aggressiveness last night, this was a poor decision. The first baseman fired across and nailed for the third out at third base. An unnecessary gamble.
In the top of the seventh, Ross Detwiler ran into his first trouble, allowing three hits and a run before escaped a two-on, one-out jam with a K and a flyout. The Nationals almost executed a nice relay. Nyjer Morgan tracked down a double at the wall and threw to Alberto Gonzalez, playing second. Gonzalez made an awesome throw home, but Derek Norris lost it as he tried to apply the tag. Oddly, that’s happened at least three times to Norris this spring.
End 5, 7:48: Michael Morse absolutely destroyed a home run to center field off an anonymous lefty reliever. He entered the game batting .435, and he’s 2 for 2 tonight -- the only hits the Nationals have.
Mid 5, 7:41: Another 1-2-3 inning for Detwiler, with a K. So for the spring, that’s six innings, no earned runs, one walk, nine strikeouts.
Top 5, 7:35: The Nationals went down 1-2-3, and Ross Detwiler enters the game. So far this spring, he’s pitched five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts.
Top 4, 7:25: The Nationals’ crummy defense continues. Nyjer Morgan took too aggressive of a route to a ball and turned a possible single into a triple to score a run. Hunter Pence followed with a hot shot to short, and Ian Desmond, playing on the infield grass, let it sneak under his glove. It was called an error, but to these eyes it looked like a tougher play than some of the prior “hits” tonight. That gives them seven errors in the past three games (two of them played yesterday).
It’s 5-0, Houston.
Top 4, 7:16: Livan Hernandez was scheduled to throw five innings tonight, but after throwing 77 pitches in three innings, he is out in favor of Tim Wood.
Livo’s line, which was not helped by two or three questionable defensive plays: 3 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 1 K
Top 3, 7:01: The Astros, as the Nationals played some sloppy defense, have taken a 3-0. First, Livan Hernandez allowed a rare hit on one of his super-slow curveballs. Hunter Pence waited and stroked an RBI single to left.
Jason Bourgeois scored, and he reached only after Ryan Zimmerman let a bounding ball past him. (The official ruled a hit on the grounds of a bad bounce.) Chris Johnson followed Pence with a liner to center, which Nyjer Morgan charged, only to have it ricochet off his glove. It was ruled, generously, a hit. Brett Wallace followed with a drive to center, which landed before the warning track, just out of Morgan’s reach.
Earlier, Morgan misread a ball and allowed it to fall in front of him for a hit. He seemed frustrated with himself after that one, slapping his glove with his left hand.
6:21: Nothing doing for the Nats in their half. Nyjer Morgan flied to center, Ian Desmond flied to right, Jayson Werth walked. Ryan Zimmerman smoked a liner to left, but Shuck made a diving catch.
6:14: The game tonight is being televised on MASN, which should make for an even better discussion than usual for a game-time post. Feel free to mix it up down there. I’ll still provide updates throughout in this space.
Livan Hernandez rolled through the first, striking out two (Jason Bourgeois and Chris Johnson) while allowing only a single, a liner to right by Hunter Pence.
It’s Lance Pendleton on the bump for the Astros.