VIERA, Fla. – Ryan Zimmerman homered and drove in two runs and Mark Teahen also drove in a pair as the Nationals walloped the Astros 8-0 at Space Coast Stadium.
Edwin Jackson made his second start of the spring for the Nats and was impressive going four innings, allowing just two hits while striking out three. In fact, the only trouble Jackson had came in the third after he had retired the first six he faced.
He gave up back-to-back singles to Jason Castro and Chris Snyder then got Diory Hernandez to ground into a double play.
“Double plays are a pitchers best friend,” Jackson said. “I was fortunate enough to come out and make a pitch and get a ground ball when I needed it to get myself out of a jam.”
The second time around, starters will be allowed to go four innings or about 60 pitches and for Jackson, this was an effective outing as he tries to perfect his mechanics and work on his command.
“I was able to go out and find a rhythm early,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do this spring is go out and find something that works and something that feels comfortable and I was able to do that today.
In Jackson’s first start against the Astros, he went two innings but walked two and said he was trying to find that comfort zone. So, what made today’s outing different for him?
“Who knows? When you’re going good, you really don’t know what it is. When you’re going good, you just know you’re going good, I mean, something just clicked and whatever mechanics I had, I was able to repeat them and throw pitches across the plate.”
Manager Davey Johnson and pitching Coach Steve McCatty were both aware Jackson was tipping his pitches last season and there was some suggestion to having the right-hander modify his mechanics a little bit, but after watching Jackson throw today Johnson was ready to put that talk to rest.
Edwin Jackson was superb,” Johnson said. “You can quit writing about all his mechanics and all that BS. He was as good as it gets right there, everything about him.”
“We told him to quit reading the newspapers and quit worrying about it. That’s what Cat has been telling him, to relax and do what feels comfortable. If that was comfortable, I mean, I liked everything I saw.”
The offense in gear
Zimmerman hit his homer in the first inning to the opposite field off former teammate Livan Hernandez. He also had a single to right in his third at bat. Teahen had an RBI single in the fifth and then an RBI groundout as part of a three-run Nationals sixth inning.
Brett Carroll who is trying to win a utility outfield spot went 1-for-2 with two runs scored, two walks and an RBI, and he continues to impress the manager. “I’ve said all along, I really like what I’m seeing there,” Johnson said. “He’s a good looking player, very versatile, good defensively, good approach at the plate, plays the game hard. He’s certainly in the mix.”
Anthony Rendon and Jason Michaels each had RBI singles and Rendon also scored twice.
Harper was scratched right before game time with what was described as left calf tightness. He is listed as day-to-day.
Harper was originally in the lineup hitting eighth in right field. So far this spring, the 19-year old outfielder is 5-for-11, all singles, and is hitting .455. “I woke up this morning and it was a little tight,” Harper said. “I came out here and rode the bike a little bit trying to loosen it up and it just didn’t get going so, it’s just precautionary and I will try to get back in there tomorrow or the next day.”
Harper doesn’t see this as something that will keep him down for a long period of time.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “You know, its spring training and I’m trying to be as careful as I can. I’d rather miss two or three days down here than miss five during the season.”
After Jackson’s impressive four inning stint, left-hander Ross Detwiler then threw three innings, striking out three.
Detwiler went 4-5 last year with an ERA of 3.00 in 15 games for the Nats after going 6-6 in 16 games for triple-A Syracuse. He is in competition for the fifth starter spot with John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang but most people feel the Nats did not bring Wang here to pitch out the bullpen and some feel Lannan will be traded sometime before the end of the spring as some teams have expressed interest.
“Being a long reliever on this team isn’t going to be very much fun because there is not going to be very many innings,” Detwiler said laughing. “Some people have their roles, mine will come sometime.”
The Nationals head south to Jupiter Friday night for a game against the Miami Marlins. Stephen Strasburg will make his second start of the spring and he will be opposed by left-hander Wade LeBlanc. Strasburg gave up two runs and three hits in 2 2/3 innings in his first start against Astros Sunday.