Postgame analysis of the Nats' 8-8 tie against the Minnesota Twins at Nationals Park in their final exhibition game before Opening Day:
How it happened: There were a whole bunch of homers hit despite the damp weather on Saturday at Nats Park, but not enough by the Nationals to overcome a rocky outing by starter Joe Ross in their last tuneup before the real games start. Michael Taylor, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Danny Espinosa and Chris Heisey all went yard to combine for six runs. The Twins produced four runs on homers, as Joe Mauer clubbed a three-run bomb and Trevor Plouffe cleared the fence for a solo shot. But it was Eddie Rosario's bases-clearing double in the fifth that punctuated an overall bad day for Ross. He gave up eight runs altogether in his final outing before the season kicks off.
What it means: The Nationals have to take positives from what they saw from their lineup, despite what happened to Ross and their defense. Taylor and Zimmerman closed out what has been an impressive spring training for both players. In addition to his home run, Taylor also singled to lead off the first inning and scored on Zimmerman's homer. The discouraging part of this game was definitely Ross, who struggled against a stacked Twins lineup. Either way, ending their spring schedule with no major injuries to report on is a victory on its own for the Nationals.
Ross rocked in final outing: For the second straight day a Nationals starter finished his spring training with an uneven outing. On Friday it was Tanner Roark who had trouble, but that was nothing compared to Ross. The right-hander allowed eight runs on two homers and 12 hits. Perhaps he can see promise in the fact he struck out eight batters with no walks through five innings, but it was not a great way to close what had been an otherwise strong exhibition schedule for the young hurler. It will be interesting to see how Ross reacts in his next outing, given it will be during the regular season and given we don't yet know the nature of how he will be used. Ross is a part of this rotation for the longhaul, but with two off-days in the first week his 2016 debut could come in relief.
Taylor remains on fire: Taylor is going to be hard to keep on the Nationals' bench if he keeps hitting like this. He had hits in his first two at-bats on Saturday and finished spring 24-for-53 (.458). His home run in the third inning was absolutely obliterated. It was such a direct shot that Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario barely moved. Taylor enters the 2016 swinging the bat as well as anybody and Dusty Baker may have a challenge on his hands to both find playing time for Taylor and to make sure he doesn't cool down with inconsistent at-bats.
Lineup closes with a bang: Here is a list of batting averages for key Nationals hitters with Opening Day up next: Michael Taylor - .453, Ben Revere - .429, Anthony Rendon - .385, Ryan Zimmerman - .333, Bryce Harper - .317. Sounds like they're ready.
Up next: The Nationals travel to Atlanta for Opening Day 2016. It all begins at 4:05 p.m. on Monday with Max Scherzer taking on the Braves with Julio Teheran as his counterpart.