VIERA, Fla. — The Nationals dropped their fifth straight spring game this afternoon, a 10-4 affair at Space Coast Stadium that, quite simply, featured two explosive innings for the St. Louis Cardinals and not enough offense from Washington.
Here’s the good from the day:
— Brian Broderick turned in another solid outing. After getting a vote of confidence this morning from his manager, the Rule V pick tossed 17 pitches (12 strikes) in a scoreless fifth inning where he induced three ground ball outs and walked one.
Broderick was already making a case for the Nationals to find room on their 25-man roster for him and today provided more evidence to support that.
— Sean Burnett continued to solidify his place as the team’s best relief option right now. Burnett pitched another scoreless inning of relief on Friday bringing his totals this spring to 6.1 innings pitched, allowing five hits, just one run (unearned) and no walks.
After the game, manager Jim Riggleman praised Burnett again: “Anybody who’s watched us in the last week hasn’t seen anybody securing any jobs, with the exception of Burnett.”
While it might be logical to assume he’d get the lions share of the early save opportunities, the Nationals will also need him as a set-up man in the late innings.
— Adam LaRoche was 3-for-3 with three RBI on the day and the man hitting in front of him in the lineup, Jayson Werth, ripped a double in the first inning, walked twice, scored a run and picked up an RBI. Both were encouraging signs, but especially for LaRoche, who said he generally needs 50-60 at-bats during the spring to be fully comfortable at the plate and is hitting .375 after just 32 at-bats.
“LaRoche and Werth hit the ball very well,” Riggleman said. “That’s about the extent of (our offense)… LaRoche and Werth were it, but that’s huge.”
And now for the bad:
— Drew Storen continued a spring training to forget with an appearance that began: triple, two-run home run, solo home run. Storen has now tossed 6.1 innings and allowed nine earned runs off 14 hits and two walks. Storen and Riggleman insisted the right-hander is fine physically but that it’s a matter of execution.
“I don’t pretend to know the mechanics of pitching,” Riggleman said. “I know results, and I know he’s not happy with the results.”
Storen relied primarily on his fastball on Friday and left several of them over the heart of the plate, which the Cardinals hitters took advantage of.
— Jordan Zimmermann suffered through easily his worst outing of the spring, going four innings and giving up six earned runs off eight hits and two walks. He struck out none.
Coming in, Zimmermann hadn’t allowed a single earned run in nine innings of work, but he had trouble keeping the ball down in the zone on Friday. Things spiraled out of control for him a bit in the fourth when five consecutive batters reached base via four hits and a walk, leading to four runs, but he was also the victim of some tough luck in the first inning.
“It was a little bit of a spring training feel there for him,” Riggleman said. “We had four balls that we got gloves on (in the first inning), no errors charged and no outs.”
“I just fell behind in the counts and if you do that, you’re going to be in trouble most of the day,” Zimmermann said. “The balls weren’t hit hard, a lot of ground balls today, but just up in the zone and fell behind the hitters.”
— Since being named the team’s starting left fielder and reaching a peak batting average of .517 on Monday, Michael Morse has been mired in an 0-for-14 slump, which continued Friday with an 0-for-4 day at the plate.
Perhaps most concerning for Morse, who was hitting in the five-hole on Friday, was the fact that he hit into two double plays — the second after the first four Nationals had reached base via three straight walks and a single.
Morse, who is now batting .349 this spring, was the lone starter to play the whole game, even switching to first base in the late innings, as the Nationals try to prepare him for more playing time than he’s had in his career.
“He’s just experiencing a lot of baseball right now,” Riggleman said. “He’s going to be our left fielder. I want him to see a lot of pitches and he’s answering the bell in terms of the innings. It can be a little misleading, but it can get in your head when you start accumulating numbers that are 0-fers. I’m just assuring him that he’s earned a spot on the club, just get your at-bats and see the ball and learn something about each pitcher you see.”
— Danny Espinosa (foot) and Ivan Rodriguez (calf) both did not play for the third straight day as the Nationals try to get them a little extra healing time and rest while they recover from their respective injuries. Both players were in the lineup initially but were scratched after batting practice. Chances are good that both could be in the lineup on Saturday.