Twins, Nats trade big shots in final tuneup before season

Twins, Nats trade big shots in final tuneup before season

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and Twins played their final exhibition game of 2016 at Nationals Park on Saturday afternoon, and the two teams found themselves in a slugfest. When it over, they played to an 8-8 tie. The Twins finished the spring with a 19-11-2 record, while the Nationals ended the spring with a 19-4-4 mark.

The Twins got on the board quickly, as Brian Dozier led off the game with a home run off right-hander Joe Ross.

But the Nationals ended up taking a 3-1 lead in the home half of the first against right-hander Ricky Nolasco. Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run homer, while Daniel Murphy followed with a solo shot.

Nationals go back-to-back

Ross, however, couldn't hold on to the lead. Minnesota scored four runs in the third inning. Joe Mauer highlighted the scoring, when he swung at a 3-2 pitch and hit a three-run homer over the left-center-field wall.

"You have to give [the Twins] some credit. I'm telling you, they have a good team and they have a good-hitting, young team," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.

Mauer's opposite-field homer

By the fourth inning, Nolasco had allowed two more runs. Michael Taylor hit a solo home run in the third, while Danny Espinosa tied the score at 5 with a solo shot an inning later.

Espinosa's solo blast

Ross ended up having his worst outing of the spring, allowing eight runs in five innings. Three of those runs came in the fifth inning. Eddie Rosario unloaded the bases with a double to right field to make it a three-run game.

Rosario's bases-clearing double

It didn't help that Ross was hampered by rain and injuries. The last time he pitched in a Major League game was against the Tigers on March 20. In that contest, a line drive off the bat of third baseman Nick Castellanos hit Ross on the right heel and he left the game soon thereafter. The injury wasn't considered serious. The rest of the time he pitched in Florida, Ross pitched in Minor League games.

"Ross hasn't pitched in an 'A' game in three weeks," Baker said. "He pitched five innings in a 'B' game against Minor Leaguers. That's why we left him in [today's game] so long. We had to stretch him out. ... The good thing is, he didn't walk anybody and he battled. The main thing is, he got his work in."

By the eighth inning, the Nationals managed to whittle the Twins' lead down to a run. With Trevor May on the mound in the seventh for Minnesota, Ben Revere scored on a single by Scott Sizemore. An inning later, Revere swung at a pitch from Fernando Abad and singled to left, scoring Jose Lobaton.

Revere's RBI single

Washington knotted the game at 8 in the ninth, when Chris Heisey hit a solo homer off right-hander Brandon Preston.

Heisey's game-tying solo homer

Up next for the Nationals: They travel to Atlanta to play the first game of the regular season against the Braves on Monday at 4:10 p.m. ET. Max Scherzer will make his second consecutive Opening Day start for the Nats with a chance to make history. After throwing a no-no in his final start last season, Scherzer could join Johnny Vander Meer as the only pitchers to throw back-to-back no-hitters during the regular season.

Up next for the Twins: They start the season in Baltimore and face the Orioles on Monday at 2:05 p.m. CT. Ervin Santana will get the start for Minnesota. Santana, an 11-year veteran, gets the nod in his first career Opening Day start. The Twins went with Santana after his dominant showing late last season, as he posted a 1.62 ERA over his final seven starts.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.