VIERA, Florida -- The Washington Nationals fought back on Saturday at Space Coast Stadium to defeat the Detroit Tigers, 8-4. Taylor Hill picked up the victory, while Jose Valdez settled for the loss in the Old English D.
Detroit jumped to a 2-0 lead as Bryan Holaday carved a two-run shot off Stephen Strasburg in the top of the second inning.
Strasburg gave up two runs on two hits and a walk during his spring debut, but struck out five batters. The right-handed pitcher looked in mid-season form. Strasburg, 27, worked his secondary pitches well and was not forced to pound the strike zone with only the fastball pitch during 2.0 innings of work.
"I threw a lot of good pitches," Strasburg said. "[I threw] one bad pitch, but that's to be expected. I'm going to keep working on the pitch selection and fine-tune everything. Kind of struggled throwing in to righties a little bit. I was kind of yanking them a tad. The curveball and fastball felt really good."
Jordan Zimmermann toed the slab for the Tigers and faced the team he pitched for in the 2015 season. The 29-year-old gave up one run on one hit across 2.2 innings pitched. Zimmermann signed a five-year, $110 million deal through the 2020 season with Detroit this offseason.
“It was different, obviously, but I went out there and attacked them like I planned on doing all along,” Zimmermann said regarding facing his old teammates. "It is probably going to be weird if I face them in D.C. this year."
Just moments after Zimmermann departed to a standing ovation, Ben Revere, who is not known for his power, hit a home run to tie the game against the Tigers. Bruce Rondon was taken out of the game after going 1.1 innings and giving up the home run to Revere.
With Nick Castellanos on-base, Holaday continued his red hot spring with his third home run off of A.J. Cole to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead in the top of the fourth inning. Holaday is hitting .750 with three home runs and eight RBI. The catcher, who is also putting in work at third base, is making it very hard for the Tigers to let him slip to Triple-A Toledo, even with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and James McCann on the roster.
Cole, who gave up the ding-dong to Holaday, has made it full circle with the Nationals. The fourth round pick by the Nationals in the 2010 MLB Draft was traded to the Oakland Athletics in a deal that sent Gio Gonzalez to Washington. In March 2013, the Nationals reacquired the right-hander after he had a rough 2012 season. He could work as a starter, but will probably find himself in Triple-A Syracuse to begin the year.
Once Detroit regained the lead, it was all Washington. Taylor Moore cut the deficit to one run with an RBI double and Brian Goodwin tied the ballgame at four with a sacrifice fly to score Moore in the fifth inning.
Scott Sizemore served his second ball to the seats to give the Nationals a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Valdez gave up the lead changing homer, which caused him to take the loss.
Believe it or not, Sizemore played for the Tigers in 2010 and 2011, where he hit .223 with three home runs and 18 RBI across 65 total games. Since then, the infielder has played at the major league level for the Oakland Athletics (2011, 2013) and New York Yankees (2014). Sizemore finished the game 1-for-1 with a home run, walk and two runs scored.
The Nationals tacked on a run in the seventh and added two more in the bottom of the eighth inning. Matt Skole hit his first four-bagger of the spring into the right field seats for an 8-4 lead over the Tigers.
Rafael Martin pitched in the ninth inning and closed down shop after giving up just one hit to shortstop Dixon Machado. The 31-year-old has yet to give up a run so far this season.
The Tigers will head home to Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida for a battle against the Miami Marlins (1-2) on Sunday. Matt Boyd will toe the slab and Dylan Axelrod will oppose the left-hander. Washington will play the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida.