This Spring Training Danny Espinosa struggled to the tune of .241/.302/.342 with 26 strikeouts in 79 at bats, and just as it looked like he was going to end the Spring on a good note things turned sour. With two outs and Desmond having walked and stolen second ahead of Espinosa’s single it looked like the Nats had either ended their last exhibition game in a tie or sent it to extra innings, but that was not to be as Desmond was thrown out at the plate by Jason Repko to end the game and give the Red Sox the hard fought 8-7 victory over the Nationals.
This last Spring Training game for the Nationals came with many twists and turns, but the biggest might have been what happened off the field. Around the third inning Davey Johnson informed John Lannan that he would not be getting on the plane headed to Chicago with the rest of the team. Instead John Lannan was sent to Syracuse. This decision was not made lightly and it wasn’t made because Lannan pitched poorly in the Spring. The decision was made because Ross Detwiler pitched that much better than John Lannan and had earned the fifth spot in the Nationals rotation.
With Wang starting the season on the DL Lannan was named the Nats fifth starter a week ago, but as it turns out the Nationals changed their minds and Ross Detwiler will open the season as the Nationals fifth starter. The Nationals are not a team unaccustomed to surprise roster moves in Spring Training. Last season Nyjer Morgan was declared the centerfielder multiple times before being traded away and the year before that the Nationals shocked their fans by cutting Elijah Dukes after Jim Riggleman had made a special effort to attend Dukes father’s funeral.
As John Lannan was absorbing the news of his demotion Edwin Jackson’s day was unraveling. Jackson started of the game by throwing three perfect innings before giving up two runs in the fourth and four in the fifth before being pulled for Sean Burnett. Down six to nothing in the bottom of the fifth the Nationals showed a bit of the fighting spirit fans grew to love in 2011 when Wilson Ramos hit a three run homer off of Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz who had his own perfect game going through his first four innings.
In fact the game started in a manner in which it looked like both teams couldn’t wait for Spring Training to be over and for the season to get under way. As the game stretched into the later innings and the runs piled up it started to look like neither team wanted Spring Training to end. The Nats fought all the way back to take the lead in the seventh inning off of a Steve Lombardozzi sacrifice fly that scored Wilson Ramos.
Wilson Ramos was the most productive Nationals at the plate going two for four with four RBI and two runs scored. It was good to see Ramos back in action at Nats Park after a tough off-season. The Nationals lead however was short lived as Ryan Mattheus entered the game. Mattheus had started the bottom of the seventh warming in the pen and by the time he entered the game he had cooled back down. Matthues surrendered a homer to the very first batter he faced, Daniel Nava, and a single to Kelly Soppach before retiring the final three batters he faced.
Henry Rodriguez would enter the ninth having given up zero runs in 11 previous appearances. The new strike throwing Rodriguez was on display for Nationals fans but the strikes he threw happened to be hit. Still the signs are encouraging as the typical H-Rod meltdown in 2011 would have come with a couple more walks and wild pitches mixed in with the singles and double down the line.
Spring Training would end in the bottom half of the ninth inning with Desmond taking a fateful turn around third base to be gunned down at home plate. There was some debate after the game as to whether Desmond was safe or not, but none of that matters now as the records reset to zero as Spring Training ends, and the Nationals are ready to start the games that matter in Chicago Thursday afternoon at 2:00 PM when Stephen Strasburg takes on Ryan Dempster at Wrigley Field.