Nationals still need to improve on holding runners

Nationals still need to improve on holding runners

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals pitchers did a poor job of preventing opposing runners from stealing bases last year. They obviously want to improve, but Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Tigers could be an indication that they still have some things to work on in that department.

The Tigers stole six bases, and it helped them score both of their runs. With right-hander Jordan Zimmermann on the mound in the first inning, Rajai Davis led off with a single and Ian Kinsler was hit by a pitch. Davis and Kinsler then executed a double steal before Don Kelly grounded out, scoring Davis.

Manager Matt Williams understood that the Tigers added more speed to the top of the lineup and accepted the fact that the run scored. Williams said Zimmermann was not slow throwing to the plate.

"You look at the stolen bases -- the top of the order, they are going to do that. They made it known they are going to do that. That's why they got those two guys. They needed more team speed," Williams said. "So they are going to try it. It's just how they were going to approach the game at the top of the order."

However, Williams sounded annoyed that reliever Michael Gonzalez couldn't hold runners in the eighth inning.

The game was tied at 1 when Detroit scored the go-ahead run. Steve Lombardozzi led off with a single, stole second and third base before scoring the winning run on a double by Danny Worth, who then stole third base.

"[Gonzalez] has to hold baserunners a little bit better than that," Williams said. "We are preaching in Spring Training that we need to do a better job of holding those guys. [Gonzalez] has been around the block a time or two and he understands that he is fairly slow to the plate. He needs to vary his times, his looks and throw over and things like that. Today, [the Tigers] took advantage of him."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.