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Posted at 6:29 PM ET, 03/ 7/2011

Wrapping up an unsightly win

By Dave Sheinin

The Nationals committed three errors on Monday and were spared several others by lucky breaks and official scoring quirks. They twice had to pull pitchers in mid-inning (generally a spring training no-no) and saw all but one of their six pitchers give up multiple hits and at least one earned run. But they also won, 14-9, over the Houston Astros in a grueling affair that lasted three hours, 30 minutes.

Here are some of the takeaways from this one:

*Bryce Harper, the Nationals' 18-year-old phenom, stroked a pair of doubles in the Nationals' nine-run eighth inning. The first came against lefty Patrick Urckfitz, a chopper over the first baseman's head, while the second, against right-hander Jorge DeLeon, came on a high fastball which Harper ripped into the right-field corner to drive home two runs. The hits left Harper with a .308 batting average (4 for 13) and three RBI this spring.

"The second one was very impressive," Manager Jim Riggleman said, "and the fact the first one came off a left-hander is good enough by itself. The second ball he hit was another fastball up that's tough to get to, and he's getting to them."

Harper acknowledged the difficulty in going to the plate practically every time to face a pitcher he's never seen before.

"I think it was Ted Williams who said, 'I hate hitting in All-Star Games and against rookies' - because he's never seen them before," Harper said. "So going up there and seeing guys I've never seen, especially against relievers and closers -- they're going to come at you with sliders, knuckleballs, split-fingers, you know, everything they have in their kitchen sink. So I'm just trying to go up there and if I see a ball up - like [Riggleman] always tells me, 'If you see a ball up, use your hands and drive it.' So it's working out pretty well."

*The Nationals' three errors Monday leaves them with a total of 12 in eight games this spring. For a team that supposedly built its offseason strategy largely around improving their defense, this is unacceptable.

"We haven't played good," Riggleman said. "We've made way too many errors, period. We've got to clean it up."

*Reliever Drew Storen, coming off two consecutive sub-par outings, gave up three hits and two runs (one earned) in his only inning of work, but part of it can be attributed to the leaky defense the Nationals played behind him, and part to the fact the Nationals ordered him to throw almost exclusively fastballs in order to work on his command of that pitch.

"We're asking him to throw more fastballs, which is going to get him hit a little bit," Riggleman said. "He's not on top of his game by any means, but it was maybe not as bad as the linescore would say."

Said Storen: "I didn't like the results, but the way I pitched was a lot better and a big step ahead from my last time out. I used my fastball more, and showed I can do that."

By Dave Sheinin  | March 7, 2011; 6:29 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Live blog: Astros at Nationals, Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Fla.
Next: What's up with the awful defense?


Good to see Harper hit more, but Rizzo is committed to sending him down.
Best takeaway today is the Bernadina is making a serious push for CF and leadoff. Opens the game with a bunt single and steals second. Then gets a bases loaded walk next time up.
Storen continues to concern. He has options. I hope sending him to AAA is at least an option that Rizzo is considering.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 7, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Harper's already quoting Ted Williams? :-)

Posted by: p_chuck | March 7, 2011 7:23 PM | Report abuse

I attended the game; there were numerous moments which made me wince but watching the Nats score nine runs without making an out was kinda fun.

Posted by: greggwiggins | March 7, 2011 7:33 PM | Report abuse

"We haven't played good," Riggleman said.
You know, Riggs, you won't get fired for using the word "well" properly.

Posted by: gilbertbp | March 7, 2011 8:32 PM | Report abuse

I love that BHarp is quoting Teddy Ballgame, it shows he is a student of the game!

Posted by: markfd | March 7, 2011 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Harper may have exactly the right idea. Achieve Williams feats in the minors and then follow it to the majors. Perfect plan if that's his plan?

Posted by: periculum | March 7, 2011 9:24 PM | Report abuse

What kind of conceited, pompous, self-rightous d0ucher quotes Ted Williams? Dude can't even smell Teddy's jockstrap with a 3000 mile pole.

Not to mention the faux-hawk frat boy will be lucky to even make an All-Star game or get a few hits of rookie pitchers this year or in a decade.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | March 7, 2011 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Quoting Ted Williams tells me Harper respects the game. As the great Crash Davis once said to another phenom, Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh:

" don't respect yourself, which is your problem. But you don't respect the game, and that's my problem. And you don't respect Poopy, either, so you're not a total washout."

You could look it up:

Posted by: gilbertbp | March 7, 2011 10:01 PM | Report abuse

markfd, I'm with you... I think it's great that Harper appears to have a sense of the history of the sport... and I also appreciate the way he approaches the game... he feels like a gamer... with huge upside.

He also appears to be quick on the uptake. He'll make mistakes, of course... but it appears he is going to learn as much as he can from those mistakes. Seems like a formula for success to me.

Posted by: Ghost7 | March 7, 2011 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Gotta love the O's Zach Britton throwing 3 scoreless innings against the Yanks.

That kid (and even Matusz) are gonna be leaps and bounds better than Strasburg.

Sorry Natinal fans but thems the facts.

Book it.

And who really quotes Bull Durham? I mean, other than people whose baseball career ended with a pathetic strikeout in 11-12 Little League and have been living vicariously through baseball movies since.

Seriously, what are you gonna quote next? Little Big League? Rookie Of The Year?


Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | March 8, 2011 12:04 AM | Report abuse

If he really does follow in Ted's footsteps in terms of approach, that kind of plate discipline combined with his natural power could be really dangerous. Barry Bonds like. I know Barry's almost a taboo name to baseball fans, but he really knew how to play the game - put up the best on-base numbers of anybody with power since, yes, Ted Williams. And Harper's stronger than an 18-year-old Barry Bonds.

There are a lot of kids with natural talent, but plate discipline and a great strike zone are what make the very best hitters in the game.

Posted by: 202character | March 8, 2011 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Poopsy, I used to think you were kinda amusing, but more and more you are becoming a total pain in the butt. Why don't you see if you find some other site to infest.

Posted by: justmike | March 8, 2011 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Nice piece by Dave S on Nyjer this morning. It's good hear how much time and effort he's putting into getting his game back together. Nothing would be as good for this team as Nyjer of July 2009.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 8, 2011 5:42 AM | Report abuse

"We've made way too many errors, period. We've got to clean it up."

Quick -- which year was this Nats manager talking about?

Posted by: markfromark | March 8, 2011 6:28 AM | Report abuse

OMG!!! Listen to all the ex-ballplayers ripping Harper for quoting Ted Williams. Wow I never knew so many of you were out there on these forums. Keep it up. Maybe someday you'll be able to come up out of your Momma's basements.

Posted by: Dog-1 | March 8, 2011 7:10 AM | Report abuse

Its sad they are going to send 18 year old kid who is hitting .308 down to Hagerstown and then give the starting CF job to a guy hitting .061 and has the arm of an eigth grader.

Posted by: Mutch | March 8, 2011 7:31 AM | Report abuse

I was surprised to see how many people picked up on the kid quoting the Kid. I think that's huge. I think that tells us that Harper is truly serious about the game and that he wants to be as good as he can be. Truly Ripkenesque. I think this tells us more about how good he can be than anything he's done on the field so far.

Posted by: hammeresq | March 8, 2011 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Who sent Sheinin to Viera? The guy gets bored with long games. Hell, first, it's ST so the players are working things out; second, long games are more baseball and in this case the Nats scored nine runs. It's not the first time this guy has written about being bored by "slow" games. Hey, Sheinin, sorry baseball is so boring or "grueling" for you.

Posted by: RLFWDC | March 8, 2011 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Hey Nats Fans!
LOL, Harp is great! You will see in September! Also, it's great that the Nats are winning when they are playing uneven! Riggleman is getting everyone a shot, fabulous, and winning! Using Spring Training for just that, trying things out. Winning is a bonus!
Go Nats!

Posted by: patsgrill4U | March 8, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Hey Nats Fans!
LOL, Harp is great! You will see in September! Also, it's great that the Nats are winning when they are playing uneven! Riggleman is getting everyone a shot, fabulous, and winning! Using Spring Training for just that, trying things out. Winning is a bonus!
Go Nats!

Posted by: patsgrill4U | March 8, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Whoops! Sorry about doubling up there!

Go Nats

Posted by: patsgrill4U | March 8, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Harper is making it difficult for the Nats to send him down. If our OF weren't so full already the decision would be even harder.

Riggleman might try to gloss it over with doubletalk, but Drew Storen is a concern right now. It is quite possible that we brought him up too soon and he's really not ready yet -- he showed some pretty clear flashes of unreadiness last year.

We have a whole bunch of good relievers right now and there might be three guys who we'd be better off keeping than Storen. I would say that, if performance so far is any indication, Todd Coffey should be our closer in any event, with Storen relegated to middle relief, or at best set-up, if we don't send him for more seasoning in Syracuse.

Coffey has been mowing 'em down, and that's what I like in a closer.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | March 8, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

>Its sad they are going to send 18 year old kid who is hitting .308 down to Hagerstown and then give the starting CF job to a guy hitting .061 and has the arm of an eigth grader.

Posted by: Mutch

No sadder than the fact they'll probably lose 100 this year.

Posted by: Brue | March 8, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Gotta love Teddy (Bryce) Ballgame. This youngsters work ethic is not in question. Though I'd love to seem him travel north to D.C. when s/t comes to a close, it's still best for him to play a season in the trenches of the minor leagues. I'm not going to give up on Storen just yet, though he might be best suited for middle relief at the present time.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 8, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Actually, Teddy Ballgame's jock strap is quick frozen in Arizona with the rest of him, so for a price, it can be defrosted and sniffed. Just a thought...

Posted by: DontGetIt | March 8, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

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