Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nationals Park is all decked out and ready to go for Opening Day.
If you're coming to the game today, be sure to get here early. Pregame ceremonies start at 12:10 p.m., and the unveiling of the NL East championship banner will take place at precisely 12:26:30 p.m. Plan accordingly.
Nothing left to say except the two greatest words in the English language: Play ball! Updates and analysis to come...
MIAMI MARLINS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 9
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), XM 185
Weather: Partly cloudy, 63 degrees, Wind 15 mph out to RF
CF Denard Span
RF Jayson Werth
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Stephen Strasburg
LF Juan Pierre
CF Chris Coghlan
RF Giancarlo Stanton
3B Placido Polanco
C Rob Brantly
2B Donovan Solano
1B Casey Kotchmann
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
RHP Ricky Nolasco
HP Jeff Kellogg (cc)
1B Eric Cooper
2B Paul Schrieber
3B Chad Fairchild
1:00 p.m. -- OK, the pregame festivities are now complete. They unveiled the NL East Champions banner above the scoreboard. They introduced all the starters, reserves, coaches, trainers, clubhouse attendants, etc. They handed out all the postseason awards (Silver Sluggers to Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Stephen Strasburg, Gold Glove to LaRoche, Manager of the Year to Davey Johnson, Rookie of the Year to Bryce Harper and Boston chapter of the BBWAA Executive of the Year to Mike Rizzo). The Army Quartet sang the national anthem. Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Teddy Roosevelt's great-great grandson yelled out "Play Ball!" So that's what we'll do.
1:09 p.m. -- And we are underway. Stephen Strasburg's first pitch of the season is a 94 mph fastball to Juan Pierre for a strike.
1:15 p.m. -- And Ryan Zimmerman's first Web Gem of the year saves Strasburg from allowing a first-inning run. Juan Pierre led things off with a base hit to center, then advanced on Chris Coghlan's grounder and Giancarlo Stanton's flyball. But Zim saved the day by diving way to his left to snag Placido Polanco's hard grounder, then hopped to his feet and fired to first base to end the inning. Good stuff right there.
1:25 p.m. -- Well, Bryce Harper's first swing of the season produced a ball that landed in the right-field bleachers. Oh, my. What a way to start the year. Nationals Park went absolutely bonkers as the kid rounded the bases. Nats lead 1-0.
1:30 p.m. -- The key word for Strasburg this year: Efficiency. He wants to get quick outs, which in turn will allow him to pitch deeper in games. Well, two innings in, he's right on track. Only 25 pitches (16 strikes) so far, and zero strikeouts. That's what the Nats are looking for out of the big right-hander.
1:43 p.m. -- Not that there's anything wrong with a couple of strikeouts, either. Strasburg rung up both Adeiny Hechavarria and Ricky Nolasco to begin the top of the third. Add a lineout to right and Strasburg is through three scoreless innings on 42 pitches (27 strikes). Nats still up 1-0.
1:50 p.m. -- A leadoff walk by Wilson Ramos is wasted in the bottom of the third. Strasburg did his part, dropping down a sacrifice bunt, but Span (weak grounder to first) and Werth (weak flyball to center) couldn't advance the runner.
1:58 p.m. -- Now for the news you really care about: Taft lost his first-ever Presidents Race. Got tangled up with Teddy in the right-field corner. George won. So there you have it.
2:05 p.m. -- So, this Bryce Harper kid just might be decent, huh? Two at-bats, two homers. Sweet. Fancy. Moses. Four innings into the season, and he's already gotten a curtain call. Kind of interesting that he hit both bombs today on breaking balls from Nolasco: a 1-0 curveball in the first and a 3-2 slider in the fourth. 2-0 Nats after four.
2:11 p.m. -- Not to be completely outdone by his fellow No. 1 draft pick, Strasburg is having himself some kind of afternoon. He's through five scoreless innings now on only 60 pitches. He's retired 15 in a row since Pierre's leadoff single to open the game. He's barely breaking a sweat, getting a ton of groundballs and looks determined to keep going deep into this game. Still 2-0 Nats as we go to the bottom of the fifth.
2:22 p.m. -- Hmm, might be nice for someone other than Harper to produce at the plate. So far, Ramos is the only other National to reach base today, with a walk in the third and a leadoff single in the fifth. But once again, Span and Werth couldn't bring him home. Span has grounded out weakly to the right side three times today. Werth, meanwhile, struck out after a long at-bat to end the fifth with the Nats still up 2-0.
2:27 p.m. -- Make it six scoreless for Strasburg, who has needed a scant 67 pitches (43 strikes) to do it. He's taken the mound for the seventh inning only eight times in 45 career starts. He's never taken the mound for the eighth inning. Think that might change today.
2:35 p.m. -- Bryce Harper flies out to left in his third at-bat. What a bum. Actually, he made pretty good contact. He also squared around to bunt earlier in the sequence, pretty funny. Give Nolasco credit. He's pitched a fantastic game himself, only allowing three hits through six. Nats still lead 2-0 as Strasburg takes the mound for the seventh.
2:42 p.m. -- How about that? Just when it looked like Strasburg was in a jam -- first and third, one out -- Harper fired a strike to the plate to prevent Stanton from tagging up. Polanco, though, strayed too far off first base and got caught in a rundown. Stanton then took off for the plate, but the Nats were right on top of it, nailing him on the rare 7-2-3-4-2 putout.
2:46 p.m. -- Whoa, "Take On Me" during the seventh-inning stretch!
2:50 p.m. -- That's in for Strasburg. He's done after seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball. Threw only 80 pitches. Tyler Clippard in for the 8th, protecting a 2-0 lead.
3:05 p.m. -- Man, it felt like Clippard might throw as many pitches in the top of the eighth as Strasburg did all day. It took the bespectacled one 23 pitches to get through the frame, but he did it without allowing a run. So it remains 2-0 Nats as we move to the bottom of the eighth and as Rafael Soriano starts to limber up in the pen.
3:12 p.m. -- Harper popped out. He's 2-for-4. What a bum. OK, here comes Soriano, trying to protect a 2-0 lead.
3:19 p.m. -- That's it. Soriano gets the save and the Nats get a 2-0 victory on Opening Day. Not a bad way to get this highly anticipated season going.