End, 3:22: Drew Storen put an end to some recent struggles with a quick 1-2-3 ninth — a pop-up to second by a minor league right -hander, a grounder to short by Michael Bourn and a foul, easy fly to left by Clint Barmes. Storen, who entered with an ERA over 11, had a rocking chair inning that he really needed. Nats win, 3-1.
Bot 8, 3:17: Michael Morse drilled a two-run homer to right off Houston reliever Fernando Abad to give the Nats a 3-1 lead. The wind helped, but Morse hit it well enough that it likely would have left the yard regardless.
Mid 8, 3:02: Steady as she goes for Doug Slaten, who continued a solid spring with a 1-2-3 inning. In the seventh, Balester finished off his inning with another strikeout. His curveball was untouchable. He’s proved without a shadow of a doubt he is one of the seven best relievers on the roster. If he gets squeezed off the opening day roster, here’s better he makes an impact at some point this year.
It’s still 1-1.
Top 7, 2:40: Collin Balester has entered for Lannan, and he’s thrown some wicked hammers as he’s gotten the first two batters out on a K and a pop foul. Balester’s stuff has been tremendous this spring.
Here’s Lanna’s line: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 66 pitches, 42 strikes
Mid 6, 2:30: Lannan surrendered his first run on a walk, a sacrifice bunt and a single to left by Michael Bourn. Lannan still seems in command, but now the game is tied at 1.
Top 6, 2:24: The Nats went quietly, but Alberto Gonzalez collected another single. He entered hitting .326 for the spring and he’s 2 for 2 today. Alex Cora seems to have the lead in the competition for the utility spot, but Gonzalez is stating his case.
Mid 5, 2:13: It would be hard to be more dominant than Lannan today. He has faced the minimum through five innings, still having allowed just the one single and no walks. He struck out Carlos Lee to start the fifth, his third strikeout today. It’s 1-0, Nats.
Bot 4, 2:06: Apologies for the lack of updates here today. The Internet connection has been awfully screwy here. I’m also trying to crank out some other copy for our preview section and a couple stories for the run-up to opening day, so the updates may be a little lacking. Sorry about that.
Anyhow, the Nats lead the Astros, 1-0, at Space Coast Stadium. John Lannan has been impressive, cruising through a pair of innings while allowing just one hit, a single. And Wilson Ramos erased that base runner with a bullet pickoff throw to first base. Last year, I can recall Lannan really enjoying working with Ramos (not that he had anything against Ivan Rodriguez). They’ve got it working today.
The Nationals haven’t done much against Wandy Rodriguez, mustering singles from Michael Morse – who seems to be getting his swing back – and Alberto Gonzalez, who has been hitting like crazy this spring before the fourth inning. Ramos reached on a two-out error by the shortstop, which he helped create with a smashed groundball in the hole, the second hard-hit ball he’s had today. Espinosa followed with a hard shot up the middle, giving the Nats the only run of the game so far.