VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals entered Saturday already having two ties on their spring training record. Nationals manager Davey Johnson, then, wasn’t too pleased to add a third on Saturday when his team played to a 1-1 tie with the Miami Marlins.
“I don’t like ties,” he said. “I want to see the outcome.”
The number of pitchers, generally, dictates how long the teams will play. That being said, there was one thing about this particular tie that chafed Johnson: a baserunning error in the bottom of the ninth inning that most likely cost the Nationals the extra ‘W’ in the Grapefruit League standings.
With no outs, Jason Michaels on third base and Brett Caroll on first (after consecutive singles), the Marlins pulled the infield in. “They’re playing in to stop me from scoring,” Michaels explained. “I don’t think double play was in their minds.”
But catcher Jhonatan Solano hit a ground ball to the first baseman and while Michaels held at third — so as not to give the Marlins the easy out at home — Carroll stalled a bit at first base. He started toward second but then leaned back and got caught. The Marlins tagged him out and got the force at first base on Solano, leaving Michaels alone at third with two outs. Roger Bernadina grounded out in the next at-bat to ultimately end the game.
“That’s the only possible play, really, for them to get a double play,” Michaels said, noting the only time he’d be running there is if he felt 100 percent that he’d be safe. “It’s just the way it turned out. It was crazy.”
“There was some difference of opinions between the first base coach and the third base coach,” Johnson said. “The mistake that we made was from the get-go, with the infield in, you run.”
Johnson explained that the Marlins aren’t going to hold a runner on at first base because they’re more concerned about the runner at third scoring so, it seemed he was implying that Carroll should have been off almost with the pitch and then the Nationals would hope to have runners at second and third with one out, instead of just one at third with two out.
“We were protecting against a line drive,” Johnson said. “You don’t worry about no line drives.
“That was not a good picture to see. It’s a baserunning mistake, and we’ve been pretty good, but that wasn’t pretty.”
– Otherwise the Nationals had plenty of positives to glean on Saturday.
>>Bryce Harper picked up his first extra-base hit of the spring when he doubled down the left field line off Marlins’ right-hander Steve Cishek. Harper was 1-for-3 on the day and is now hitting .304 this spring.
>>Henry Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth inning, walking one, but otherwise continuing a strong spring for the right-hander. It’s like night and day watching Rodriguez pitch this spring, as opposed to last. The Nationals are counting on Rodriguez to be a solid late-inning reliever for them and if he continues to harness his pitches the way he has been they’re going to have a very valuable weapon.
“He looked totally in control,” Johnson said. “Today was his roughest outing. He was a little wild but nothing much… He’s picking up right where he left off at the end of the year.”
>>Ryan Zimmerman was hit with a pitch in the fifth inning and was removed from the game for a pinch runner as soon as he made it to first base. That prompted the question of whether or not the Nationals’ third baseman was OK after being plunked.
As reporters approached Zimmerman and asked if there was anything wrong, Zimmerman rolled his eyes and said “Four-to-six weeks, hip.” Then he smiled and noted that he was absolutely fine.
>>Solano, who relieved Wilson Ramos at catcher in the middle of Saturday’s game, got a chance to play against his brother, Donovan, who started at second base for the Marlins. Solano said the two have played against one another several times though they do not talk to each other on the field. All business, he said.
Donovan spent seven seasons in the Cardinals organization and he signed with the Marlins this past offseason. Solano is expected to be the starting catcher for Triple-A Syracuse this season.