All of the excitement during the pomp and circumstance from the pre-game festivities didn’t take long to materialize into real excitement. The Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 2-0, though the game seemed more lopsided than the box score showed with the help of some dominant individual performances.
In his first at-bat of the season, Bryce Harper mashed a line drive home run to the right center field stands for a home run. It was a second-pitch curveball, which followed a splitter, which shows you how much he is respected, or feared, by MLB pitchers. He wasn’t nearly done yet, though. Later, in the fourth inning on a 3-2 slider, he put another ball in the right center field seats for his second home run of the season in his second at-bat of the season. Harper is the youngest player in the live-ball era to hit two home runs in his team’s Opening Day game, according to ESPN Stats and Info. He’s also the first defending Rookie of the Year to homer on Opening Day since Ryan Howard did it in 2006.
Harper also made a great play in the field to end the seventh inning. After catching a Rob Brantly fly to left, he used his arm to throw a strike to Wilson Ramos with Giancarlo Stanton tagging up to try to score. Stanton retreated to third, but with Placido Polanco, who was on first, trying to advance to second to draw a throw, the Nats infield played it perfectly. Ultimately, it was scored a 7-2-3-4-2 double play to end the inning.
The Nats offense was, otherwise, pretty quiet. Wilson Ramos reached twice with a walk and a hit, and Ian Desmond had a hit in the seventh.
The other major story of this Opening Day, besides Bryce Harper’s monster game, was Stephen Strasburg’s incredible start. He was able to dominate all of his pitches with his fastball reaching 98 mph on several occasions. He gave up a hit to start the game, but he then retired 19 consecutive batters before giving up his next hit. He had the Marlins hitters freezing with regularity on fastballs, the hitters obviously expecting something else. He made it through seven innings allowing just three hits and striking out three. He was pulled after just 80 pitches.
In the eighth, Tyler Clippard came on in relief. He struggled early with his command, walking Donovan Solano to lead off the inning, but he settled down to retire the next three batters in a lengthy 23 pitch inning.
The ninth inning was utterly dominated by closer Rafael Soriano in his Nats debut. He retired three batters in 11 pitches, and two of them struck out looking. On most of those pitches, Wilson Ramos never moved his glove to catch it. He was putting it exactly where he wanted it to go for his first save of the season.
The Nats have now won their Opening Day game for the second straight season, and it’s the second home opener they’ve won at Nationals Park. They take a 1-0 record into an off day before coming back for a 7:05 pm matchup against the Marlins on Wednesday.
-In the top of the first, Ryan Zimmerman made an incredible diving stop to his left and throw to first, which robbed Placido Polanco of a sure single and RBI and ended the inning. It allowed Strasburg to get into a rhythm after allowing a leadoff hit to Juan Pierre.