Strasburg bests Scherzer as Nats top Tigers, 8-1

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VIERA, Fla. (AP) -- Had this been the regular season, Stephen Strasburg vs. Max Scherzer would have been a tantalizing matchup.

Strasburg allowed three hits and struck out five in five scoreless innings Thursday, helping the Washington Nationals beat the Detroit Tigers 8-1.

Preparing for Washington's opener at the New York Mets on March 31, Strasburg has given up one earned run and eight hits in 14 innings with 10 strikeouts and four walks.

'I'm just trying to go out there and commit to every pitch and take what happens," Strasburg said.

In addition to working on his slider, Strasburg has also been trying to do a better job of holding runners on base. That paid off in the third inning, when Washington catcher Wilson Ramos threw out Detroit's Nick Catellanos trying to steal second.

"The biggest thing for me is just being aware of how far off the bag he is and being able to identify the leads," Strasburg said. "Before, I never really had an idea of where they were over there, and I think the fact that I didn't know sped me up a lot.

"I felt like I could just be quicker to home plate and it wouldn't matter. But then they just started getting running leads and stealing on my timing."

Scherzer, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, allowed five runs and seven hits in 52⁄3 innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. He gave up a two-run homer to Ian Desmond and an RBI triple to Ryan Zimmerman. He threw 91 pitches.

"I thought overall I threw the ball pretty well," he said. "I just didn't execute pitches."

STARTING TIME

Strasburg was announced Wednesday as Washington's opening-day starter. It will be his third straight opener.

"I hope my career isn't just reflected by how many opening-day starts I have," he said. "I think there are a lot of guys in this rotation that deserve it. I'm just the first one out."

Scherzer has walked just one batter in 20 innings during the exhibition season.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus pitched a scoreless inning in his first appearance of spring training. Mattheus had been out with inflammation of the cartilage in his chest.

Though Matt Williams was happy with what he saw Thursday, he admitted there may not be enough time to get Mattheus ready for the opener.

Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez threw on flat ground Thursday and reported no issues with his shoulder. He is to throw a bullpen session Saturday, and if all goes well, he will return to the mound on Monday against Miami. Sanchez was scratched from Monday's scheduled start because of inflammation in his right shoulder.

Outfielder Rajai Davis (hamstring) is expected back in the lineup Friday.

REDS 5, RANGERS 4, 10 INNINGS

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Johnny Cueto was scratched because of a sore back, giving Cincinnati another concern about its pitching staff, but the Reds rallied for a 5-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Joey Votto's bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning.

Cueto was skipped on the same day closer Aroldis Chapman was having surgery for fractures above his left eye and nose after he was struck by a batted ball Wednesday night. Two starters have been limited as well: Mat Latos is recovering from knee surgery at the start of camp and Homer Bailey was scratched from his last scheduled start because of a sore groin.

Reds manager Bryan Price expects Cueto to make his next start March 25 in a minor league game and pitch six innings.

Geovany Soto singled home a pair of runs in the first inning off Jeff Francis, who took Cueto's place. Soto, slowed by injuries this spring, raised his batting average to .400.

Prince Fielder hit his second homer off Sam LeCure for a 4-1 Texas lead. Brandon Phillips homered for the Reds.

STARTING TIME

Rangers: Robbie Ross made his fourth appearance and second start of the spring. Ross last pitched in relief against Cincinnati on March 14 when he threw four scoreless innings, allowing five hits. He is competing for a spot in the Rangers' rotation.

"He's throwing the ball extremely well," manager Ron Washington said. "He was getting ahead of batters and putting them away. He needs to keep pitching and we'll decide."

Reds: Francis was signed to provide depth for the rotation in case of injury. With Cueto, Latos and Bailey hampered, he has a chance to make the team if one of them isn't ready.

"I'm here to fill a certain role for this team, whatever that is," Francis said. "You never want to see someone get hurt."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: Second baseman Brent Lillibridge left the game with a tight right hamstring. It will be examined on Friday. ... Shortstop Elvis Andrus will be examined Friday for soreness in his right forearm, which has been bothering him this spring. ... Shin-Soo Choo was the designated hitter, his sixth game in that role. Choo is bothered by soreness in his left elbow. ... First baseman-outfielder Mitch Moreland is day to day with a strained left oblique, which forced him out of a game Monday. He's hitting off a tee.

SPEED AND POWER

Reds leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton led off the game Wednesday with a home run against Jeremy Guthrie. Hamilton is known for his speed, so the home run was a bit of a surprise.

"It just happened," Hamilton said. "I didn't try to do that. I don't consider myself a slap hitter. I can hit the ball into the gaps. It just happened one time. I still have to get back to my game."

He had a pair of singles on Thursday.

LEWIS PITCHES FOR ROUND ROCK

Texas right-hander Colby Lewis pitched 42/3 innings for Triple-A Round Rock against Omaha on the Royals' back fields. Lewis, who is trying to make the team as the fifth starter, allowed one run and three hits. He threw 57 pitches.

"We need to get him to 100 pitches," Washington said. "He was supposed to throw 60 or 65 today. If he makes the team as the fifth starter, we have time. We won't need him the first week."

ROSTER MOVES

Rangers: Texas released RHP Michael Zouzalik, RHP Travis Dean and RHP Jose Samayoa.

Reds: RHP Drew Hayes, LHP Lee Hyde, RHP Chien-Ming Wang and INF Argenis Diaz were reassigned to minor league camp.

PHILLIES 6, ASTROS 3

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer will follow Scott Feldman to the mound for the Houston Astros in their opening series against the New York Yankees.

Houston manager Bo Porter made the announced Thursday, when the Astros reassigned shortstop Carlos Correa and pitcher Mark Appel to their minor league camp. Correa was the top pick in the 2012 amateur draft and Appel was the No. 1 selection last year.

The Astros also reassigned first baseman Jon Singleton, outfielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Mike Foltynewicz. George Springer was optioned to Oklahoma City where he will make the transition from center field to right field.

All except Singleton were first-round draft choices.

"There's not too many organizations that can send out that caliber of talent, all in one fell swoop," general manager Jeff Luhnow said as the Astros lost to a Philadelphia Phillies split squad 6-3. "While none of them are ready to be on the 25-man major league roster for opening day, all of them, I believe, will be there in the near future."

Lucas Harrell, among four candidates for two open spots in Houston's rotation, allowed one run and six hits in 41/3 innings. He walked two and struck out none.

"I would prefer not to get any strikeouts," he said. "When I strike out a lot of guys, I throw a lot of pitches and I tend to come out of the game a little earlier. When I can get groundballs and early contact, that usually means I'm going seven or eight innings."

Harrell led the major leagues in walks (88) last season and topped the AL in losses (17). He's competing with Dallas Keuchel, Jerome Williams and Brad Peacock for a rotation job.

"This time and the next time out, I need to throw well to give myself a chance to make the team," Harrell said. "I don't necessarily look at it as competing with the the other guys. I compete with myself. I have high expectations every year."

Patrick Henry graduate Marc Krauss went 0-for-2 on the day for the Astros.

Bobby Abreu had three hits, including an RBI double off Kevin Chapman for the Phillies.

STARTING TIME

Phillies: Making his third start, Jeff Manship allowed one run and six hits in five innings and struck out five. He gave up an RBI double to Jason Castro in the first.

Astros: Harrell got nine of 13 outs on ground balls.

"I felt like I got some weak contact today and that's mainly what I'm looking for," he said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: Outfielder Darin Ruf strained his left oblique muscle during batting practice and was scratched from the starting lineup. Ruf was scheduled to bat third for the Phillies. He was replaced in left field by Steve Susdorf, and Ruf returned to Clearwater to be examined. He is hitting .217 with two home runs in 18 spring training games.

Astros: Appel, slowed by appendectomy, is to make his first game appearance of spring training Friday in a minor league exhibition.

TRADE REVISITED

Cosart and Singelton came to the Astros from the Phillies in the 2011 trade for Hunter Pence. Porter called the 23-year-old Cosart "a front-end-of-the-rotation guy when he's locked in."

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