Displays of Power
The Nationals hit a trio of home runs on Saturday to lead them to an 8-7 victory over the Miami Marlins. All three were hit authoritatively, each no-doubters even without the steady breeze blowing out to right field, but each meant something different to the player who hit them.
With Washington trailing 6-4, Bryce Harper fell into an 0-2 hole against lefty Brad Hand leading off the bottom of the fifth. But he beat the lefty, driving a towering shot over the raised row of billboards behind the outfield wall at Space Coast Stadium, just to the right of center field. Manager Davey Johnson was most impressed not by the clout itself, but off whom Harper blasted it.
“It was nice to see Harp hit the left-hander,” remarked Johnson of the 20-year-old, whose second roundtripper of the spring left him with a line of .462/.481/.846 at the end of the day.
Nationals fans in Viera hardly had time to sit back down before Ryan Zimmerman joined the party, taking another offering from the hand of Hand to nearly the exact same spot as Harper’s ball for his first homer of the spring. Coming off offseason shoulder surgery, both Johnson and Zimmerman insisted it was no surprise to see the face of the franchise’s batting stroke in midseason form, but that it was nice to actually see the results on the field.
“It’s always good to get a couple and start driving the ball to get some confidence,” said Zimmerman of his blast.
Zimmerman, who had only served as DH so far this spring, also had encouraging news about his throwing program, as he fully strengthens his shoulder before returning to third base.
“I don’t really have to count anymore,” he said of his practice throws across the infield. “I just go until I’m tired, then throw a few more to build off of it, and shut it down. But it feels good, I mean everything’s fine. The routine plays are fine, it’s just the ones where I have to rush and I’m not able to set my feet. My arm’s not quite strong enough to do that yet.”
The final home run of the day proved to be the game-winner, crushed off the bat of Zach Walters to break a 6-6 tie in the bottom of the eighth. It was the second home run in as many days for the young infield prospect, who has made major strides off the field in his first big league camp.
“He’s made some adjustments with (hitting coach) Rick Eckstein,” explained Johnson of the 23-year-old, who joins Harper and Anthony Rendon as the lone Nationals with multiple home runs so far this spring. “He’s learning more about who he can be and playing to his ability.”
Johnson also indicated that Walters would probably be one of the final cuts from camp, meaning that fans will get more chances to see what the young switch-hitter is capable of.
The Nationals are in Lakeland to take on the Tigers Sunday at 1:05 p.m. Check out today’s lineup and a full list of Spring Training results to date below.
1. Brown RF
2. Lombardozzi 2B
3. Harper CF
4. Ramos C
5. Moore LF
6. Tracy DH
7. Marrero 1B
8. Skole 3B
9. Rendon SS
2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3
2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2
2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4
2/26 @ Atlanta – L, 9-5
2/27 vs. Miami – L, 5-1
2/28 vs. New York (NL) – T, 4-4
3/1 @ Atlanta – W, 6-5
3/2 @ St. Louis – W, 6-2
3/3 vs. St. Louis – W, 7-6
3/5 vs. Houston – W, 7-1
3/6 @ Philadelphia – L, 6-3
3/7 @ Houston – L, 4-2
3/8 vs. Cardinals – L, 16-10
3/9 vs. Marlins – W, 8-7
Overall Record: 6-6-2