Nationals fall to Astros 8-7 to remain winless
After two consecutive cancellations, the rain finally stopped in
Central Florida on Saturday. The Nationals couldn’t say the same
for their losing streak.
Starter Scott Olsen pitched three solid innings and Ryan
Zimmerman homered before the Nationals bullpen faltered and minor
leaguer Jack Shuck delivered a walk-off, RBI single to give the
Houston Astros split-squad an 8-7 win over Washington at a windy
Osceola County Stadium on Saturday.
The Nationals are the only winless team in the major leagues
this spring at 0-9.
Bud Norris made his second start of the spring for the Astros,
allowing two runs on three hits and two walks over three innings.
He struck out one and threw 32 of 55 pitches for strikes.
“I got a little work in with the changeup,” the 25-year-old
right-hander said. “They had a big left-handed lineup, a lot more
breaking balls than I normally would at this point.”
Closer candidate Matt Lindstrom also had a scoreless inning of
work for the Astros. He has yet to allow a run in three appearances
Third baseman Pedro Feliz went 3 for 4 for the Astros, while
Hunter Pence and Jeff Keppinger each had two hits and Edwin
Maysonet drove in a pair of runs.
Washington relievers Drew Storen and Matt Capps each threw a
scoreless inning. Storen has yet to give up a run this spring in
three appearances and had two impressive strikeouts Saturday. Capps
didn’t surrender a run for the first time in four outings this
Matt Chico was not as efficient for the Nats. The left-hander
allowed six runs, five earned, on seven hits in one inning of
Olsen allowed one run on four hits in his second outing of the
spring. He struck out one, didn’t walk anyone for the second
straight start and threw 27 of 41 pitches for strikes.
“We mixed in more breaking balls than we did last time,” Olsen
said. “We had some good tilt and good angle on them. Will (Nieves)
said they looked like fastballs until they broke. In the first
inning, we threw some changeups. We really started to mix in the
slider in the second and the third.”
Olsen is working on getting the strength back in his arm after
his 2009 season was cut short due to shoulder surgery. He had made
just 11 starts when the Nationals discovered a small tear in his
left labrum in July. He finished the year 2-4 with a 6.03 ERA, a
far cry from the 12-10 record and 4.04 ERA he posted as a rookie
with the Marlins in 2006.
Olsen hit 88 mph on the radar gun Saturday, up from 86 in his
first start on March 8.
“He’s not where he needs to be yet, but he’s getting closer,”
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. “He’s got a couple of more
starts at least, so there’s plenty of time. The arm strength was
there today compared to last time. If he makes those kind of jumps
in those increments the next two or three times out he’ll be
Zimmerman hit an 0-2 Norris offering the other way to right
field for his second home run of the spring in the third, with the
30 mph gusts helping the ball get over the wall. Zimmerman finished
3 for 4 with two runs scored. Shortstop prospect Ian Desmond went 2
for 4 and drove in his team-leading 11th run of the spring,
bringing his average up to .476.
“Desmond is playing great,” Riggleman said. “He’s been just
outstanding offensively and defensively, running the bases and
NOTES: Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara,
watched the game from owner Drayton McLane’s seats next to the
Astros’ dugout. … Stephen Strasburg, the top pick in the 2009
draft, will make his second start of the spring on Sunday in Viera
when the Nationals play the Cardinals. Riggleman said Strasburg is
slotted to pitch three innings after tossing two scoreless frames
his first time out Tuesday against the Tigers. … Nationals right
fielder Elijah Dukes was a late scratch on Saturday and was
replaced in the lineup by prospect Justin Maxwell. Riggleman
decided to sit Dukes due to an ailment in his foot. … Astros
closer candidate Brandon Lyon experienced some stiffness after
facing live hitters for the first time this spring on Friday. Lyon,
who is recovering from having a cyst drained in his throwing
shoulder, is set to throw another 30-pitch side session against
live hitters on Sunday.