Offense comes to life behind Strasburg

Craig Heist,

VIERA, Fla. – After scoring just five runs in their last four Grapefruit League games, the Nationals exploded for a five-run first inning, getting homers from Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth and Roger Bernadina en route to a 12-0 pasting of the New York Mets.

All five runs in the first came against Mets starter Matt Harvey.

Desmond led off the inning with a solo homer to left field to put the Nats on the board. Harvey then gave up back-to-back doubles to Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman to make it 2-0. Jayson Werth then hit his third home run of the spring, a mammoth clout that cleared the Tiki Bar in left field and left the stadium. Later, Bernadina added his solo blast.

In all, the Nats banged out 17 hits with the top of the order doing a lot of the damage.

Desmond and Espinosa combined to go 5-for-12 with an RBI and four runs scored. The middle of the order, Ryan Zimmerman, Werth and Mark DeRosa combined to go 6-for-14 with a homer and five RBI.

“When we got to the top of the lineup getting on and got guys on base constantly, it gives your team an opportunity to score runs,” second baseman Danny Espinosa said. “I know we did a real good job of getting on base and the guys who are supposed to drive in runs, did.”

While spring training stats and wins and losses mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, the Nats were ready to have a laugher like this with the way the last 11 days have gone.

“I think to a man, we were tired of getting whooped up on big time,” manager Davey Johnson said. “So this was nice. It made it easier around here. Even on the bench, they were all getting on each other and it was fun. They were kind of tired of the ass-whooping we’ve been getting.”

For the last two weeks, Johnson has reiterated he was not worried about the offense, or in this case, lack thereof, and saw it more as his team just getting ready for the start of the season.

“I was happy with where they were at to a man,” the skipper said. “My regular guys today, if you saw it, it looked like they had pretty good timing. They were seeing the ball well. Even with the 0-for-10, to a man, I liked where everybody was. I’m going to go to ‘em hard a little bit this week and then I’ll back off the guys.”

“I think the skipper wanted to win today,” said right-fielder, Jayson Werth. “I think we had a little extra giddy-up today when we came out to play. We had our lineup for the most part in there.”

“We have a good time playing with each other and good chemistry and we had a little extra hop in our step and we wanted to win today and get skipper off the schneid so to speak. We swung the bats well and got a win and it was good,” Werth said.

Let’s not forget the Ace

Stephen Strasburg went five innings for the second straight time this spring. He threw shutout ball, allowing five hits while walking one and striking out five. He threw 84 pitches, 46 for strikes and was in command most of the afternoon.

He had two runners on in the first but struck out Ike Davis and got Vinny Rottino to fly to right. After a 1-2-3 second inning, Strasburg gave up two hits and hit a batter to load the bases with one out but got Davis to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

In the fourth, a hit, a fielder’s choice ground out and a walk put runners at first and second with one out, but Strasburg struck out Lucas May and got pinch-hitter Matt Tuiasosopo to ground out.

Strasburg ended his afternoon with a 1-2-3 fifth inning and in his second-to-last start before he will pitch the season opener against the Cubs on April 5, he appears ready.

“It’s definitely in the rehearsal stage,” Strasburg said. “Going out there and trying to execute pitches and not necessarily go out there and work on stuff. For me, where I’m at, there are still a couple of things for me to work on and that’s going to continue. But when you step on the rubber, it’s go time out there right now.”

“The thing I like is the five innings,” Johnson said. “He’s done that back-to-back five innings, so really he’s in a position first time out to give me 100 pitches, six innings. That’s ideally where you want him.”

Houston, we have a problem

The Astros visit Space Coast Stadium Monday for a 1:05 game against the Nationals. The Nats will send John Lannan to the hill. Lannan is 0-1 with a 4.85 ERA and he will be opposed by RHP Jordan Lyles. Lyles is 0-1 with a 6.55 ERA.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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