Sometimes Spring Training games are “must see” T.V., and you will have to wait until tonight for this game that will feature Justin Verlander versus Stephen Strasburg. There was a time when Strasburg was compared to Verlander for that big fastball and great secondary pitches. The Washington Nationals have less than two weeks remaining on the Grapefruit League schedule, and games like tonight show that spring training has moments that the true Floridian baseball fans have to love. Think about it. There are Florida residents who can watch a future Hall-of-Famer like Verlander and savor that until next year at this time because their alternative when the Grapefruit League ends is driving hours from Palm Beach County to the south to watch the Miami Marlins, and why would they do that?
Tonight’s game, the Nats once again face their neighbor in the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches complex and this one is the MLB Network game of the night. Spring Training baseball is supposed to be more about the process than the results, and yesterday’s game had some poor process for the Nationals. The team had a few defensive mishaps, a very costly caught-stealing in the 9th inning, and some poor at-bats. Max Scherzer deserved better, but he took the high road about the 3-2 loss.
“Look, I can also make better pitches, too,” Scherzer said. “I’m not going to sit here and point fingers at anybody. I only point fingers at myself. But when it’s spring, it’s always good to pitch through some stressful innings, especially when they’re scoring…You want to experience that here in spring. So the fact there are misplayed balls is actually good. Let’s knock them out of the way in spring.”
It is nice that Scherzer took the philosophical high road to that loss and did not point fingers. Hopefully Strasburg has better defense behind him tonight than Scherzer experienced yesterday. The Nationals position players had been fundamentally sound until yesterday. Manager Dave Martinez had emphasized good fundamentals during the 2019 camp while stressing the little things, but in Monday’s game, we saw lapses in many aspects of the game and little things were the difference between winning and losing.
We can hope that yesterday was an outlier game. In particular, Michael Taylor had two defensive mishaps leading to three earned runs, and at the plate he went 0-3 with two strikeouts. Add to that Ryan Zimmerman had a fielding error and went hitless with two strikeouts while watching his spring batting average sink to .111. The good news is these games do not count. Scherzer’s 5.93 ERA means nothing. Rendon’s .150 batting average means nothing, and unfortunately for Michael Taylor — his .4o9 batting average will mean nothing if he takes swings like he did yesterday. It’s not how you start, but how you finish.
Houston Astros vs. Washington Nationals
Stadium: FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach, Florida
1st Pitch: 6:35 pm EDT
TV: Houston feed; MLB Network out-of-market; MLB App
Nats Radio: Houston radio and via the MLB app
Line-ups subject to change without notice:
Victor Robles CF
Wilmer Difo SS
Matt Adams 1B
Yan Gomes C
Andrew Stevenson LF
Carter Kieboom 2B
Adrián Sanchez 3B
Hunter Jones RF
Stephen Strasburg RHP