Here’s what you need to know about the Nationals’ 5-2 victory over the Tigers, which nudged their Grapefruit League record back over .500 at 13-12:
Tyler Clippard looks like he’s rounding into form. Clippard entered tonight with a 12.79 ERA, but he never lost confidence he would eventually find the right checkpoints in his delivery and get comfortable for the regular season. He made progress tonight, allowing one hit and no walks while striking out two in two scoreless innings.
“I kind of felt more like myself,” Clippard said. “It’s a confidence boost, for sure.”
Clippard struck out Alex Avila and Austin Jackson, both swinging. Jackson flailed at two high fastballs, one above the letters and one just about even with his eyes. When Clippard induces those kinds of swings with his high fastball, it’s a good sign.
“That’s a pitch that I need to have,” Clippard said. “It’s tough for guys to lay off that. When I’m getting some bad swings, especially on that pitch in particular, everything in falling into place it seems like.”
Clippard felt like he needed the two-inning stint to help find a better rhythm with his mechanics. He believes he could use two or three more appearances before opening day, but “I’ll be ready,” he said.
Jayson Werth hit his first home run of the spring. He launched a solo home run to left off Rick Porcello with two outs in the fifth. After Adam LaRoche singled, Michael Morse followed with a two-run bomb to left-center, his seventh homer. Only Jake Fox, who’s eight homers, has more than Morse in the Grapefruit League.
Jordan Zimmermann dominated. Zimmermann’s penultimate start of the spring may have been his best. He needed 90 pitches in five scoreless innings, but his stuff was as sharp as its been. He allowed five hits and a walk while striking out six, firing fastballs that sat at 94 mph and reached 96. His curveball, he said, was not all that crisp, but his slider felt great.
“The fastball, I felt like I could throw it wherever I wanted to all night,” Zimmermann said. “That was the best control I’ve had with that all spring. Curveball was a little off. But I threw a lot more sliders. It’s either one’s good. I can’t have them both on the same night, it seems.”
Tonight, the fastball seemed good enough.
Rick Ankiel had himself a good game. With the Nationals on the verge of naming Ankiel their regular center field (against right-handed starting pitching, anyway), Ankiel went 2 for 3 with a laser of a double to right and a line-drive single that almost took reliever Jose Valverde’s head off.
“He’s a good athlete,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “You put him out there, and you feel like he’s going to have some impact on the game some way.”
Nyjer Morgan, who went 1 for 4 with three strikeouts as the DH tonight, will play center field tomorrow night.
Todd Coffey struggled. Reporters had already made their way down the clubhouse when Coffey took the mound, so I can’t report exactly what happened. But Coffey allowed two runs in his lone inning, yielding two hits, including a double by Jhonny Peralta, and a walk. Coffey has an 8.39 ERA this spring.