Quick Links

Nats open new $150 million spring training site with walk-off win

Nats open new $150 million spring training site with walk-off win

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Bryce Harper drove in the first run, the rain stayed away and a festive crowd saw a game-ending homer. All in all, a nice start on opening day for The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Shared by the Houston Astros and Washington, the teams met Tuesday in the first spring training game at the new $150 million complex. The Nationals won 4-3 on Michael Taylor's drive with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

The biggest draw for many of the 5,987 fans seemed to be the racing president mascots, who made the trip south from Nationals Park. Instead of Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln, the opener featured William Taft, Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge.

"I miss Teddy, George and Jeff," said David Blackwood, who made the trip across Florida from Sarasota for the game. "These are like the spring training presidents. They haven't made the squad yet."

There are still more permanent fixtures that need work at the park that holds over 7,000 -- some concession stands won't open for a few more games, not all bathrooms had hot water. But what was accomplished in 15 months since the ballpark's approval is being lauded by players, coaches, fans and Commissioner Rob Manfred, who was in attendance.

"The stadium bowl itself is absolutely first rate, but I think the back fields and practice areas are amazing, as well," Manfred said.

The Astros and Nationals each have one back field that mimics the dimensions of their home ballpark, plus five other full-sized practice fields apiece.

Along with clubhouses that rival most of those at major league ballparks in both size and number of televisions, the Nationals' side of the facility also features a training pool, which began to be filled on Monday.

"A diving board would have been nice -- maybe a slide," joked Jeremy Guthrie, who threw the first pitch of the game after morning rain cleared out.

For the record, Daniel Murphy got the first hit and Carlos Beltran launched the first homer. Harper doubled home the first run.

Players raved about field conditions, which offered dimensions of 335, 406 and 336 feet from left to right. The bullpens are down the lines behind the outfield wall, with a green berm where fans can stretch out and watch the game.

Beyond the left field berm resides the Houston executive offices, which Derek Norris hit on one bounce for a home run. From the upper level seats fans can glimpse several of the back fields.

Taylor's homer over the left field foul pole marked the first spring training game in West Palm Beach since 1997. The Nationals' franchise once called West Palm Beach home, back when they were the Montreal Expos. The Braves and Expos shared a complex in town for years.

The Nationals explored options on both coasts of Florida as a replacement for their previous spring training complex in Viera, two hours north of their new residence. The Astros moved from Kissimmee, more than two hours away.

About 15 minutes from the new ballpark in Jupiter is Roger Dean Stadium, shared by the Cardinals and Marlins.

"I love the idea of spring training baseball in southeastern Florida," said Manfred, who has an apartment close to West Palm Beach. "I actually think it's not just personal, it's good for the game to have two centers of baseball in the state of Florida. It allows teams to keep their travel time down, but you do need a certain number of teams to make it all work."

While in Viera, bus rides of two and three hours were the norm for the Nationals. This spring 27 of their 34 games will be played in Palm Beach County. Three more will be played two counties north at the Mets' facility in Port St. Lucie, less than an hour away.

"Riding on the bus for four hours is not that fun so having fewer trips like that is definitely better," said Taylor, who set up his winning homer by throwing out a runner at the plate to end the top of the ninth.

There is one potential pothole that Nationals manager Dusty Baker didn't face when the club camped in Viera. In West Palm Beach and the surrounding area, there are plenty of attractions to occupy a player's time away from the ballpark -- and some of those places remain open until 5 a.m.

"We were in Viera, there wasn't anybody staying open," Baker said. "It was nice, but, you know, it was easy to get your rest."

Quick Links

Nats hit 8 HRs to blast Brewers 15-2

usatsi_10181733.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Nats hit 8 HRs to blast Brewers 15-2

The Washington Nationals tied a franchise record with eight home runs, including two apiece by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, and Max Scherzer pitched six innings of three-hit ball in a 15-2 rout of the fading Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.

Washington matched two major league records in a seven-run third inning: Most consecutive home runs (four) and most home runs in an inning (five).

After Harper connected off Michael Blazek (0-1) in the first inning, Brian Goodwin started the long-ball barrage in the third with a two-run drive. Wilmer Difo, Harper and Zimmerman followed with long home runs.

MORE NATIONALS: Watch the Nats hit back to back homeruns 

The streak was interrupted when Daniel Murphy flied out, after which some of the fans reacted with good-natured booing.

Anthony Rendon resumed the fun with a shot to dead center that finally chased Blazek, whose first major league start was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Zimmerman and Jose Lobaton both homered off Wily Peralta in the fourth for a 15-1 lead.

The eight home runs tied the franchise mark set in July 1978 by the Montreal Expos against Atlanta.

Scherzer (12-5) allowed one run and struck out nine to bring his total this year to 201 -- his sixth consecutive season with at least 200, the longest active streak in the majors.

The right-hander had plenty of offensive support, most notably from Harper, who had three hits and four RBIs while extending his career-best hitting streak to 19 games.

Travis Shaw and Lewis Brinson homered for the Brewers, who have lost nine of 11 to drop from first place in the NL Central.

Blazek gave up seven hits, six of them home runs, in just 2 1/3 innings. Peralta allowed seven runs and eight hits in 1 2/3 innings, a performance that raised his ERA to 7.85.

MOVE OVER, HONDO

Zimmerman's two home runs upped his total with the Nationals to 237, tied with Frank Howard for most in Washington history.

Known affectionately as "Hondo," the 6-foot-7 Howard played with the expansion Senators from 1965-71.

ROSTER MOVE

The Brewers added RHP Anthony Swarzak to the roster after obtaining him Wednesday in a trade with the White Sox.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (10-3, 3.25 ERA) was placed on the 10-day disabled list with an elbow impingement. Manager Dusty Baker expects Strasburg to miss only one start. ... OF Michael Taylor (oblique strain) is almost ready to begin baseball activities, Baker said. Taylor has been on the DL since July 7.

UP NEXT

Brewers: Brent Suter (1-1, 2.84 ERA) takes the mound Friday night in the opener of a three-game showdown with the visiting Chicago Cubs.

Nationals: Tanner Roark (8-6, 4.83 ERA) helps Washington launch a three-game series at home against the Colorado Rockies.

Quick Links

Watch the Nationals hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back HRs against the Brewers

usatsi_9500050.jpg

Watch the Nationals hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back HRs against the Brewers

Bryce Harper was thrown out in the eighth inning of Wednesday's win over the Brewers.

Apparently, he needs to be thrown out of games more.

Harper's second home run of the game Thursday against the Brewers, was part of a four straight home run barrage the Nationals put together in the third inning.

First it was Brian Goodwin homering to right to start things off.

Then it was Wilmer Difo's turn.

Harper was next, which by the way was already his second of the game.

Ryan Zimmerman made sure he kept the streak going after Harper.

And now all four at once, just for emphasis.

The Nats weren't done in the inning either. After Daniel Murphy would fly out to center and end the streak, Anthony Rendon would add another home run to the inning. 

The Nationals became the eighth team in MLB history to hit four straight home runs. The Diamondbacks were the last back in 2010.