The Nationals opened their Grapefruit League season with a 5-4 win over the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Taylor Jordan made the first start of the spring and allowed one hit over two innings, needing only 21 pitches, 16 of them strikes, to get six outs. His fastball command was good and the movement on his change-up was drastic. He has focused heavily on his slider in camp and threw a handful, but he will use the pitch more in later starts as he regains his feel for it. Overall, he was pleased and was happy to finally face opposing hitters after two weeks of camp.
“It definitely feels good to pitch against an opposing team,” he said. “I have a different mentality about that. During spring training, I’m not trying to hurt anybody. I’m not trying to go in hard on people, because I don’t want to put them out for the season, my teammates. But it definitely felt really good to get out there.”
Jordan said that pitching coach Steve McCatty complimented the movement on his slider.
>>> Right-handed starting prospect A.J. Cole followed Jordan and fired two scoreless innings, allowing three hits. He escaped a jam in the fourth inning by inducing a groudout. In the previous inning, he threw two pitches that appeared to be change-ups that froze batters. He located his fastball well.
“We wanted him to throw two innings and he was ready to do that,” Williams said. “He was good. His fastball moves. He was able to get in on right-handers. Gave up a couple hard-hit balls but other than that he was fantastic. He was good.”
>>> The Nationals won with a late-game comeback. Zach Walters, who subbed in for Ian Desmond at shortstop, doubled to lead off the seventh inning. Back-up catcher Koyie Hill doubled and plated Walters. With two outs, Michael Taylor drew a walk and then Steven Souza’s single to right allowed Hill to score. Right fielder Cesar Puello’s wide throw home gave Hill the opening to get home. In the eighth, Walter’s first-pitch double to center scored Matt Skole, who reached on a double, and the score was tied at 4.
In the ninth inning, the Nationals took a 5-4 lead thanks to the legs of Kobernus and Taylor. Kobernus singled to center with one out. On a ball in the dirt from Mets pitcher Jeff Walters, Kobernus took off for second. Then, Taylor drilled a fly ball deep to center over Matt den Dekker’s head and raced around the bases. Taylor, who has spent two seasons at Class A Potomac but is known for his defensive prowess, is just as fast, if not faster, than Kobernus.
With Souza batting and one out, Taylor was told to go on contact. Souza grounded the ball to short and Taylor was caught in a rundown. He managed to last long enough to allow Souza to get to second and in scoring position. Teammates and coaches gave Taylor high-fives in the dugout. Williams was impressed, as that is the type of play he has stressed in camp.
“It was good,” Williams said. “You want him to be aggressive there so we sent him on contact, too. He did a really nice job of staying in the rundown and getting another guy in scoring position. That’s feel of game. And I think he’s got all the talent in the world.”
>>> Nate McLouth, who signed a two-year, $10.75 million deal in the offseason to strengthen the Nationals’ outfield depth, made his debut in a Nationals uniform. He started in right field and went 0 for 2 with a strikeout.
“It was great, finally, to get out there and get some game action,” he said. “It was fun. Beautiful day, body felt great, saw the ball good. Good to get the first couple at-bats out of the way.”
>>> Hitters had been anxious to get into games after a week and half of drills, workouts, batting practice and the past few days of live batting practice. And many of them, Ryan Zimmerman included, focused on regaining timing and repetitions. Over the coming weeks, he will slowly get into a groove at the plate; it’s gradual.
“I could swing at the first pitch every time,” he said. “I know I can hit a 90 mph fastball right down the middle. I like to try to take a couple and get into the rhythm and see a few sliders, even if I don’t have great at-bats. Early in spring they’re obviously trying to get ahead, and you’re going to be behind in the count a lot if you take the first pitch like I like to do early. First week or so, the at-bats are tough. Then you start to get more aggressive. Now you just want to see pitches and get used to seeing sliders and get comfortable hitting with two strikes.”
>>> Manny Delcarmen, the former Boston Red Sox reliever who was signed to a minor league deal this offseason and invited to big league camp, also looked strong in his first spring game appearance. He located well in the eighth inning, allowed one hit and struck out two.
“He’s one of the guys that’s competing a job in the bullpen,” Williams said. “That’s great. He does have experience. He’s been here before. So far, he’s thrown the ball really well. I like how he looked today.”
>>> Christian Garcia, who missed most all of spring training in 2013 with a torn tendon in his right forearm, appeared in his first major league spring training game as a National. He allowed four runs on four hits in the fifth inning, capped by a two-run home run by Ike Davis on a hanging change-up. If he stays healthy and has a good showing this spring, Garcia could end up on the opening day bullpen. One performance doesn’t doom spring, but Garcia was hard on himself afterward.
“I knew what I was making a mistake on, so I was trying to make the adjustment, and I just didn’t make it within the inning and it cost me,” he said. “… It’s the first one. Get that one out of the way. I guess it can only get better from here. It can’t get any worse, hopefully.”
>>> Eury Perez, who started in center field, made a tremendous diving catch in the second inning to rob Lucas Duda of a would-be double. “That was a great play,” Jordan said.
>>> Wilson Ramos’s RBI double in the fifth inning narrowly missed being a home run. He took third base on a wild pitch. After two years of leg injuries, he ran with ease.
“My leg feels strong,” he said. “I don’t feel anything right now after I ran. Hopefully I want to stay working with my leg.”