Spring Training Game #2 has Nats in Jupiter for a matchup with the Marlins. Plus a recap of last night…

The Washington Nationals travel to Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium and that is a mouthful. At one time it was just Roger Dean Stadium. The largest self-described Corvette dealer of the southeast is a big deal in Palm Beach County. Not a far drive for the Nats and many have homes closer to Jupiter than West Palm Beach. MacKenzie Gore is set to start this game against ex-Nats draftee Jesus Luzardo in a battle of young lefties. Game time is 1:10 pm and only on radio unless the Marlins put up a video camera like they often did last year.

Context should always be used here because Spring Training results should be taken lightly. But let’s talk about last night’s game which was clearly a game of two-halves. The first half was highlighted by bad pitching, bad outfield defense, and two catcher’s interference errors against Keibert Ruiz. Starter Patrick Corbin was charged with two earnies over 1 2/3 innings but truth be told, his center fielder Victor Robles was in mid-season form on shallow fly balls that he didn’t take charge on that fell in for cheapie hits, and Lane Thomas didn’t catch a catchable ball. Then Joan Adon came in and tried to impersonate a BP pitcher. The Nats were behind 7-0 and those who turned off the TVs missed the best part of the game to follow.

Enter top prospect James Wood who stepped up to the plate and sent the first pitch nearly out of CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches. There was no wind-aided length on that ball in the cool night air. It is still in orbit. The next batter was top prospect Robert Hassell III who then tripled and later singled for an impressive 2-3 night with two line drive hard hits to the opposite field. Dylan Crews was 0-1 on some tough umping but he did work a walk and made a slick diving catch in center field that left some divots. We didn’t see Brady House, Trey Lipscomb or Darren Baker in this one. We did get Nasim Nunez who had a nice RISP single with bases loaded that had a poor 3rd base send of Carter Kieboom who was easily out at home when there was just one out and Wood in the on-deck circle. Poor decision by the new third base coach Ricky Gutierrez, who served as the Run Prevention Coordinator last season, and got promoted to this new role — I guess it is Spring Training for him too.

Jackson Rutledge entered in the fourth inning and calmed the Astros down. Truth be told, Houston had no names in their entire starting lineup that a casual fan would recognize from Washington. That was a bench and AAAA lineup with Victor Caratini as the most recognizable name unless you know minor league Grae Kessinger due to his grandfather, Don Kessinger from 50+ years ago. Kind of a shame to see Mauricio Dubón go 3-for-3, and leave with that 7-0 lead. The second half of the game had walk-off vibes for the young Nats who dominated. They had no outs in the 9th with the tying run in the batter’s box. Oh well, Nats lost 7-4. The final score didn’t matter at all.

“This is going to be a fun Spring Training. One, we’ve got to get our guys ready, and two, we’re going to see a lot of these young kids. I get to see them, put eyes on them, and work with them all camp. It keeps me busy, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a good busy.”

— manager Davey Martinez said as he covered the positives and not the negatives

The crowd of 3,655 included many Travis Scott fans as he got the stadium naming rights for his CACTI beverage company. Scott threw-out the ceremonial first pitch to Josiah Gray that was low and outside as Scott celebrated the pitch as if he K’d an imaginary batter. Maybe it was a slider and the imaginary batter swung and missed.


Scott is a GRAMMY®-nominated artist and founder of CACTI Hard Seltzer, and also participated in a special ribbon-cutting ceremony before the game. The early-bird fans, 2,500 of them, received complimentary t-shirts commemorating the day. Again, the fans that stayed which was about half the crowd by mid-game, saw the Wood fireworks.

“I just looked for a pitch I could really handle. I kind of don’t really think too much. Just go up there with that approach and react to whatever.”

— Wood said after the game

Wood’s teammate, the young Hassell gave praise to his teammate, “That guy’s going to deliver. I’ve seen it myself in Double-A. You can’t throw him the first pitch down the middle.” That clearly will be a message in the Grapefruit League: No first pitch cookies to Mr. Wood.

The pitch to Hassell might have ended up as an inside-the-parker instead of an easy triple. “I knew I had three,” Hassell said. “Honestly, I watched it back on video just now. I don’t know if I would’ve had a chance to score, but I was getting around (the bases) pretty good.”

Crews entered an inning later as everyone wondered where was the Nats’ No. 1 prospect? By then, things had calmed down.

“To throw 50 pitches wasn’t the plan,” Corbin said. “But I thought I made some good pitches that they did foul off. And I stayed away from hard contact for the most part.” Corbin was scheduled for 35 pitches and Martinez let him go longer. That’s a lot of pitches for a first ST outing.

Adon was pulled before he even reached his 35 pitches. Six straight batters reached against him, three via hit, two via walk, one via that catcher’s interference.

“[Ruiz] has got to understand the hitters, who have those really long swings, and then back up [in the box]. He’s got to start watching where the guys set up in the box. If he’s deeper in the box, then he needs to move further back. These are the little things that sitting up underneath the hitter he’s got to work on.”

— Martinez said after the game

Fortunately ever Nats’ pitcher after Adon threw up zeroes. We got to see DJ Herz for the first time and he unfortunately issued a lead-off walk. All the thoughts went to Mike Rizzo’s “I don’t care how fast you throw ball four.” The good news is that catcher Drew Milllas rifled a throw to second base to erase that batter on a caught stealing and Herz erased the next two batters, after his nerves settled down, on two strikeouts. Rutledge pitched two fine innings.

“That was a really big confidence-builder. I worked really hard this offseason on being more efficient with how I was moving, optimized how my hips were working. I felt like I went out and just did it. It felt so easy. It felt so smooth.”

“Going forward, it’s going to be really nice to have that in my back pocket: Just go in and get ground balls. Throw sinkers, they’ll hammer them into the ground. It’s easy.”

— Rutledge said after the game

So as you see, if you stuck around for the second half of the game, the Nats won 4-0 and lost the top half 7-0. Okay baseball doesn’t work that way but Spring Training games don’t count for too much unless you ended up on the naughty or nice list here.

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