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Was sloppy spring training game an aberration?

Mar 1, 2014, 6:00 PM EST

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VIERA, Fla. — Matt Williams leaned back in the chair in his office at Space Coast Stadium, having just witnessed a 3-hour, 59-minute slop fest of a ballgame that included 31 combined runs, 37 hits, six errors, two wild pitches, way too many pitching changes and way too many unsightly moments to commit to memory.

“I didn’t even play, and I’m tired,” the rookie manager said.

The good news, as it were: The Nationals actually beat the Braves, 16-15, rallying from eight runs down in the fifth.

But the result didn’t much make up for the manner in which this game was played, especially the defensive miscues that irked Williams, who could only hope this was a one-time occurrence.

“I think it’s an aberration,” he said. “It’s one of those days. We’ll address it. But you can’t explain it. [Right fielder Michael Taylor] slips and wheels and throws and no one’s there. It happens. I think it’s an aberration, though.”

How does Williams plan to address it?

“Well, tomorrow we’re having situational defense practice,” he said. “So I assume we’ll address it tomorrow.”

Don’t get too worked up, though. That drill was previously planned, not a reaction to this performance.

Some other observations from a wild spring training game…

— Bryce Harper’s surgically repaired knee looked perfectly healthy in its first game test. Batting third and playing left field, Harper stepped to the plate three times and drew a pair of walks. The only out he made was a scorched line drive right at Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. And he put the knee to good work on the back end of a double steal. The Nats actually stole three bases in the third inning alone, with Denard Span swiping second and then third on the front end of that double-steal with Harper. Welcome to the Matt Williams Era.

— Though Jordan Zimmermann was highly efficient in his two-inning start, the next few pitchers who took the mound for the Nationals were decidedly not. Matt Purke labored through 1 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks and getting the always-dreaded, mid-inning hook in a spring training game. Blake Treinin, touted by club officials the last two weeks as a camp sleeper, was tagged for six runs (four earned) and six hits in only one inning (the same inning that featured many of the defensive miscues). And Josh Roenicke, trying to put himself in the mix for the final spot in the bullpen, gave up four runs of his own on six hits in only two-thirds of an inning.

— At the other end of the spectrum, Luis Ayala made a strong first impression for winning that final bullpen spot. The veteran right-hander was summoned to clean up an eighth-inning mess created by Clay Hensley (one out, bases loaded, Nats clinging to a 1-run lead) and executed flawlessly by inducing a double-play grounder to escape the jam. Ayala came back to pitch the ninth and stranded the tying runner on third to earn the save. It’s only March 1, and there’s so much left to be determined, but Ayala couldn’t have opened his spring any better than that. “He’s a guy that can have really quick innings,” Williams said. “An aggressive opposition. Ball sinking in. A lot of groundballs. That’s why we’re considering him, and that’s why he’s here. It was a perfect situation for him today.”

  1. Candide - Mar 1, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    Hey, it’s still early.

    (…ducks, runs…)

    • natsfan1a - Mar 1, 2014 at 6:22 PM

      And anyway, we got this.

      (also ducks and runs)

      • NatsNut - Mar 1, 2014 at 8:01 PM

        Hahaha, cracking up here.

  2. natinalsgo - Mar 1, 2014 at 6:08 PM

    File innings 3-7 away in the trash can.

  3. wearenationals - Mar 1, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    Wow! 3:59?!? I can’t believe my kids and I stayed for the whole thing. Sloppy but entertaining. It was like watching my son’s little league games. An inside the park double error home run?!? I still don’t know what happened on that play. Hope the non-invitees play better tomorrow…

  4. David Proctor - Mar 1, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    The worst innings were all by guys who have no chance of making the Opening Day roster. So, I’m less disturbed by it than I otherwise would be.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 1, 2014 at 6:33 PM

      I was thinking the same thing. they can bomb as much as they want. if jz or ss were to give up 8 runs, i would worry.

    • Hiram Hover - Mar 2, 2014 at 10:02 AM

      +1

  5. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 1, 2014 at 6:49 PM

    surprising part is playing for 3 hours and 59 minutes for a ST game.

  6. Candide - Mar 1, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    If anyone kept score, would you please scan it and post it somewhere for the rest of us to look at?

    Because I’ll bet most of us have never seen a train wreck before.

  7. natsfan1a - Mar 1, 2014 at 7:16 PM

    Agreed. Would be awesome to see a scorecard from the game, although the play-by-play posted in the Tweeter update on this site is entertaining.

    I don’t generally try to keep score for ST games because of all the pitcher/position player switches.

    • natsfan1a - Mar 1, 2014 at 7:21 PM

      Wonder whether the scorer screamed and pulled out some hair after writing up that inning? “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH – I just don’t care any more. Make it stop!!”

  8. wearenationals - Mar 1, 2014 at 7:32 PM

    I tried keeping score but when JZimm left there were so many player changes from both teams, my card was a mess and gave up by the bottom fourth. I think i saw four catchers play for the Nats and a pinch runner in the third?!? Sorry, I’ll try again tomorrow

  9. natsfan1a - Mar 1, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    No need to apologize, weare. I know the feeling.

    • wearenationals - Mar 1, 2014 at 7:52 PM

      Even the announcer got the Braves Johnson confused with our own Tyler Moore. ;-)

  10. veejh - Mar 1, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    What’s all the fuss about???? We beat the Braves!!!!!! LOL.

    • NatsNut - Mar 1, 2014 at 8:02 PM

      +1

    • Candide - Mar 1, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      You misspelled Barves. :-D

  11. Sonny G 10 - Mar 1, 2014 at 8:21 PM

    Whoa! We’re 2 and 0 now. :)

  12. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 1, 2014 at 9:05 PM

    Did anyone read this? This is exciting.

    • nats128 - Mar 2, 2014 at 9:39 AM

      Good link up. That could be some fun stats. It could put in perspective these outfielders who are always diving for balls vs a Denard Span who relies on great routes and speed.

  13. nats128 - Mar 2, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    Andrew Simon ‏@AndrewSimonMLB
    Williams on Brock Peterson: “Rick Schu referred to him yesterday as the big hairy guy. Sometimes you need a big hairy guy at the plate.”

    This guy is a right-handed 1st baseman and leftfielder. The Nats have Scott Hairston and Tyler Moore as the power hitting bench guy.

    Theres very little data on Petersons fielding.

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