Thursday, March 31, 2011

Game 1: Braves at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nationals Park is ready to go for Opening Day.
It's cold. It's damp. It's barely fit for man or beast outside. But it looks like there will be baseball today on South Capitol Street, and what could be better than that?

Actually, the forecast is much better today than it looked yesterday. The chance of rain from 1-4 p.m. is only 10 percent (though it skyrockets to 70 percent at 4 p.m., so you better hope they don't go extra innings). Temperatures will be in the low 40s, so bundle up, but be ready for baseball.

Livan Hernandez gets the ball for the Nationals, making the ninth Opening Day start of his career. Amazingly, there's only one other active pitcher with as many: Roy Halladay, who also makes his ninth Opening Day start tomorrow in Philadelphia.

Veteran sinkerballer Derek Lowe starts for Atlanta, a bit of a surprise considering Tim Hudson's dominance over the Nationals franchise (10-2, 1.91 ERA in his career) vs. Lowe's career numbers (8-7, 3.64 ERA). Lowe, though, was huge for the Braves down the stretch last season, going 5-0 in September. And Hudson will start Atlanta's home opener next week.

Plenty of updates to come, so be sure to check back often...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV: MASN, Ch. 50
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM)
Weather: Chance of rain late, 42 degrees, Wind 8 mph in from CF
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
C Ivan Rodriguez
P Livan Hernandez

LF Martin Prado
CF Nate McLouth
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
2B Dan Uggla
RF Jason Heyward
SS Alex Gonzalez
1B Freddie Freeman
P Derek Lowe
11:37 a.m. -- Hey folks, for those of who went out to The Bullpen to see our live broadcast on ESPN-980, unfortunately they had technical difficulties. So I had to come back to the ballpark to call in to the show. I'll still be on til noon with Al Galdi and then for a while with Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro if you want to listen.

12:58 p.m. -- OK, we're just about ready to go. The players have been introduced. The national anthem has been played. Ryan Zimmerman has been presented with his Silver Slugger Award. And the ceremonial first pitches are being thrown by five members of the military as we speak. Let's play ball!

1:11 p.m. -- And we are underway. Livan Hernandez starts Martin Prado off with a fastball for strike one. Gametime temperature: 41 frigid degrees.

1:17 p.m. -- Well, the Nats are going to have to play come-from-behind baseball right off the bat. Livo worked quickly to retire Martin Prado and Nate McLouth, but then Chipper Jones laced a two-out hit down the right-field line and beat Jayson Werth's wide throw to second for a double. Moments later, Brian McCann sent a single up the middle that scored Chipper and put the Braves up 1-0.

1:29 p.m. -- The Nats decided to bat Werth second because he gets on base so much. And he delivered in his first at-bat, singling up the middle. Then Werth showed his speed going first to third on Ryan Zimmerman's base hit to right. So first and third, one out, golden opportunity for Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse. Result: A LaRoche popout and a Morse groundout. Both runners stranded. Nats still scoreless. This is going to be a big thing to watch all season. If Werth is going to hit second, LaRoche and Morse are going to have to take advantage of their RBI opportunities. This time, they didn't.

1:33 p.m. -- Uh-oh. Jason Heyward takes Livo deep to open the second, crushed a 2-1 offspeed pitch over the scoreboard in right-center. Braves lead 2-0.

1:44 p.m. -- Rick Ankiel drove the ball to the warning track in right, giving the crowd brief moment to jump to its feet. But Heyward caught it at the base of the wall. Danny Espinosa beat out a little dribbler, then took second when Ivan Rodriguez managed not to hit into a double play. Livo tapped one back to the pitcher, though, to end the second. Still 2-0.

1:51 p.m. -- Livo has settled down since the Heyward homer. He's retired six straight, including Nate McLouth, who froze at a 68 mph curveball from the right-hander for a third-inning strikeout.

1:58 p.m. -- Lowe strikes out the side in the third. Desmond and Werth swinging. Zimmerman looking at a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner that Zim clearly thought was a ball. Tim Welke clearly thought otherwise.

2:07 p.m. -- Livo has really gotten into a nice groove. He's now retired nine straight after a 1-2-3 fourth. LaRoche made a nice stop on McCann's grounder, tossing to first from his knees. He then struck out Uggla on my favorite pitch in the major leagues: the 60 mph Bugs Bunny curveball. Livo then cranked it up to 65 mph to get Heyward looking to end the inning. Still 2-0 Braves in the middle of the fourth.

2:15 p.m. --  Tim Welke has an, um, interesting strike zone today. No consistency at all, and you can tell both Hernandez and Lowe are a bit frustrated. Not that either pitcher is struggling. Lowe continues to cruise. He did issue a two-out walk to Ankiel in the fourth, but Ankiel was then gunned down trying to steal second. Why was he trying to steal second with two outs? Perhaps the Nats don't have a ton of confidence in Pudge to come through with two outs and a runner in scoring position. Sure looked like they were desperately trying to get Ankiel into scoring position for Espinosa. One glimmer of hope for the Nats: Lowe is already up to 73 pitches after only four innings. Even though he's been mostly untouched, he may not be able to go all day at this rate.

2:20 p.m. -- Twelve in a row retired by Livo. He's holding up his end of the bargain so far. Can his teammates get something going at the plate? Bottom of the order due up in the fifth.

2:30 p.m. -- These two teams have combined to put one man on base in the last three innings: Ankiel, who drew that two-out walk in the fourth. And he was immediately thrown out trying to steal. Both starters are dominating, but something's got to give eventually. Still 2-0 Braves as we go to the sixth.

2:34 p.m. -- Make it 15 in a row retired by Livan Hernandez since that Heyward homer. Three nice plays in the field by the Nats in the sixth: Werth on a sliding catch, Espinosa going to his right and Zimmerman charging in.

2:41 p.m. -- Well, the Nats knocked Lowe out, if you want to call it that. They got only three hits and two walks off the right-hander, but his pitch count is up to 105 with two outs in the sixth after walking Zimmerman. So Fredi Gonzalez is going with lefty Eric O'Flaherty to face LaRoche.

2:46 p.m. -- LaRoche did his job, battling back from an 0-2 count to single to left. Interestingly, Gonzalez kept the lefty in to face Morse, who smoked a grounder right to shortstop. Alex Gonzalez flipped it to second for the force out, and the Nats are down in the sixth. They still trail 2-0, and time is starting to run out.

3:04 p.m. -- Nice job by Tyler Clippard to get out of a jam in the top of the seventh. Livo was pulled after facing only two batters with his pitch count at only 77. Doug Slaten entered to face Heyward and issued a walk. Clippard, though, came to the rescue, striking out Gonzalez on a 3-2 changeup and getting Freeman to fly out to left.

3:12 p.m. -- Chance for the Nats in the bottom of the seventh is squandered. Espinosa doubled with one out, then took third on Pudge's groundout to the right side. Riggleman had Jerry Hairston ready to go to face O'Flaherty, but Fredi countered with right-hander Peter Moylan. So Riggleman countered with Laynce Nix. It didn't work. Nix struck out on four pitches, leaving the score at 2-0 and leaving the Nats down to their last six outs.

3:26 p.m. -- Top of the order does nothing in the eighth. Three groundballs to the left side. Down to three outs.

3:43 p.m. -- That will do it. Nats lose 2-0. Disappointing way to start the season. The pitching staff was outstanding. The lineup not so much.


Knoxville Nat said...

Sure would be nice to start the season with an error free game by the Nats. With all the emphasis placed on improving the defense in the offseason it would be great to see some positive results.

Go Nats.

Manassas Nats Fan said...

I have to be teaching today, but can check my computer ever few minutes so I am looking forward to reports of the game. Thanks Mark

Brian Benson said...

Will be watching the Nats and about 5 other games...chilly for baseball, but I am happy the season is starting...

sunderland said...

In the Bullpen bar. Cold damp but psyched.

Theophilus said...

Would be nicer to start the season in April.

edward said...

best day of the year, hope we get a win to keep it like that

Tcostant said...

Tickets are on stubhub for less than a buck right now, not just singles either.

JD said...

We already way ahead of the game:

1)The stadium is not under occupation by enemy fans.
2)The pitching match up is not hopeless.
3)We are tied for 1st place.
4)No Willie Tavares.
5)No Brian Bruney.

Go Nats,

Theophilus said...

Hoping that Gaudin's and Coffey's high jersey nos. are indicative of their dispensabilty.

HabsProf said...

Ah, 'tis Opening Day. Across the land, the sun is shining, fans are smiling...

Hope springs eternal.

Except for me, where 3 of my players in my fantasy team have landed on the DL in the two days since the draft.


The Adventurers said...

Sending good vibes the Nats' way from Nebraska. Vive les Natspos!

DFL said...

Unpleasant weather in Washington. Skies are dark and everything is wet although the rain has stopped. It is 43 degrees. Miserable conditions to play baseball. Miserable conditions to watch baseball. Today is proof that starting the baseball season on March 30 is foolish. Who can blame the fans from staying away for Opening Day?

And for proposals. Start the season around April 7. Design the schedule to have as many games in warm-weather or domed sites. In the NL, Atlanta, Florida, Houston, Arizona, Los Angeles and San Diego play the bulk of early April at home. As do the Angels, Tampa, Texas, Minnesota and Seattle in the AL.

Knoxville Nat said...

Stuck in the office today with no XM to listen to. Does anyone know if WJFK or WFED broadcasts the game over the internet?

JD said...


The only way to start later and to finish before Christmas is to schedule 5 or 6 double headers for each team; this was the norm in the past (I don't remember when it stopped) but teams are no longer willing to lose the gate receipts which the 2 for the price of 1 necessitates.

natsfan1a said...

I don't think so, Knoxville. Maybe it's possible to subscribe to gameday audio for one game via the MLB site?

A DC Wonk said...

JD wrote:

We already way ahead of the game:

1)The stadium is not under occupation by enemy fans.
2)The pitching match up is not hopeless.
3)We are tied for 1st place.
4)No Willie Tavares.
5)No Brian Bruney.

Here, here!


6) no Nieves as backup catcher
7) JZimm and Marquis healthy

Anonymous said...

This year again, hope will have to spring from the minors ... wondering if Doug Harris has released the minor league rosters yet?

Nattydread said...

Wishing the Nats well from Nairobi!

Anonymous said...

Knoxville- they can't since MLB owns the rights. Gameday audio is only $20 for the whole season. Sign up at if you're interested.


Knoxville Nat said...


Thanks for the tip.

waddu eye no said...


i'm so immature on opening day

dj in Fl. said...

It is wonderful to see a full stadium !
But, it was not necessary to send us cold rainy weather so we could feel a part of big day.

cadeck13 said...

waddu eye no - we're all so immature on opening day! it's so much fun ;)

phil dunn said...

Not a good start for Desmond batting leadoff. He's hitting like Nyjer.

Les in NC said...

The ump must be thinking the batter's box lines are what makes up the strike zone... and he is calling low balls also, no wonder Lowe is able to K so many...

JD said...

I think everyone just wants to get out of the cold.

Tcostant said...

It's opening day for the plate ump too :)

JD said...

Why did he have to take Livo out??

The Joker said...

Sure could use Adam Dunn in this banjo hitting line-up.

Les in NC said...

what for, Joker? so he can strike out with the game on the line? We're doing a fine job of that without him.

I liked Dunn too, but the pining for him has to stop! The team will be just fine without him, thanks.

Tcostant said...

Time for Mark to leave the press box and take some pics, that way we can get some runs!

Mr. Doggett said...

I agree with Les and with the scout that called Dunn a "range-less behemoth."

Just google that phrase and look what comes up first and second.

JD said...

I hate the pinch hitter choices in the bottom of the 7th. I would have gone Ramos and Stairs.

Anonymous said...

Mark! You have to leave the press box in the bottom of the 9th. It's all up to you!

Les in NC said...

Oh it's so good to see that cocked hat look that Burnett likes so well! And a great job pitching the 9th!

C'mon boys lets get those bats warmed up!

A DC Wonk said...

Clippard -- two-on, one-out, full-count change-up for the strike out. Gotta like that!

Opener said...

What a boring game! It did illustrate very well the weaknesses and strenght of this team.

Cwj said...

I gotta say, this was one of the easiest losses to swallow I've ever seen from the Nats.
Pitching and defense were great. The Braves are a very good team, and well, it's just great to watch baseball again :)

Big Cat said...

Never thought I'd say this.....but that was a good, well played game. Nats look like a pro team. Pitched well, fielded well. Didn't hit that well, but the Braves have some nasty pitching. I think they are coming back with Hudson on Sat. He owns us. We very well could be 0-2 on Sat night, but I feel good about this team.

First time I've seen Coffey in person. Man, he really fills out that uniform doesn't he

JaneB said...

I wanted to tell Mark to get out of the press box today too! We needed done Zuckerman effect!

I dont think I have willingly spent four hours outside in weather this cold and damp in my adult life.

Fun to be there for the first Opening Day for Espy and Broderick, and even the Braves' new skipper. Missed the Dunn when they as ounces Adam..... LaRoche. But loved LaRoche's defense. Liked that we honored Japan, another baseball loving country.

Go Nats!!

dryw said...

I have to agree with Cwj and Big Cat. Of course, I'd rather have started the season with a curly W, but to lose a close, well-played game to one of the real powerhouses in the division is no shame. The Nats were neither blown out nor embarrassed, and I continue to have hope for the season as a whole.

Les in NC, I guess I can see your point about not pining for Dunn. But I'm also going to say that as long as the people sitting in my section persist in commenting every time LaRoche makes a play at first (routine or otherwise), I'm going to persist in commenting every time LaRoche fails to hit a home run. Just saying.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Just back from the game, longjohns off and I gotta say I'm really impressed. The Nats defense was out-freaking-standing, kept us in the game. Werth is a real pro. So is Ankiel. This game would have been 5-0 or worse last year. They ran into a buzz saw with Lowe on a cold day with his hot sinker. But overall, very impressed with the professionalism, no errors, didn't give one extra out. This is going to be just fine. I'm happy with my 82-victory prediction, even if that puts me in company with Ladson. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

JD said...

Just a couple of things which irritated me today:

1) Why take Livo out with 1 man on base after he retired 15 in a row having only thrown 77 pitches?

2) If you won't use Stairs with a man on down by 2 in the bottom of the 7th against a righty then why is he on the team?

Not based on today's game but overall I don't think Desmond at leadoff will work; doesn't take a walk, doesn't work the count, doesn't scratch and claw to get on base.

I am not really upset at the loss but it did serve as a reminder that Riggleman isn't gonna win any games with his in game managing.

Theophilus said...

dryw --

No offense, but if you'd commented every time Dunn left runners on base you'd be known as "loquacious."

Theophilus said...

JD --

Reasons for not using Stairs in the 7th: there were two down, runner on third, first base open. No incentive to pitch to Stairs, just let him take his walk (unintentional intentional kind) and pitch to the right-handed Desmond.

I think Stairs is going to get 90 percent of his ABs when Riggleman thinks it's going to be the Nats last ABs of the game. Either to win in the eighth or tie/win it in the 9th. Or when he thinks he can force the other manager to take a pitcher out of the game that Riggleman really wants to see gone.

Anonymous said...

After all the hype of spring training, they just laid a gigantic egg.

Feel Wood said...

Riggleman's managerial decisions absolutely confound me. No reason whatsoever to pull Livo when he did. But beyond that one, you have a guy in Stairs taking up a spot on your roster whose only reason for being there is to be a big pinch hit bat off the bench in clutch situations. You're behind 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh, two out, man on third, pitcher's spot up. This is the critical turning point of the game. Why are you not pinch hitting with Stairs? Unless you can get past this spot, there will be no later opportunity to use him. And so what if they walk him? That keeps the inning going for the top of your order. If you're unwilling to play your trump card in situations for which it is tailor-made, you don't deserve to have that trump card. Do that kind of thing enough and you don't deserve to be managing. Perhaps there's a reason why Rizzo's not rushing to pick up Riggleman's 2012 option.

Golfersal said...

Couple of thoughts after going to opening day and frankly they are negative. Mark, if your reading you should follow up on this.

First and the worst decision for the fans, they have taken out Five Guys burgers in the Miller lite walk area behind center field. Sorry but this was the best food at Nationals Park, the lines were 10 times longer than the other food stores in the area. People loved it and it's being replaced by "Shake Shack" Sorry this is not right and I can smell the odor of the Nats weren't happy with the success of an outside vender probably making more than a Nats vender. Guys you blew it, I will be packing my own sandwiches from now on.

One of the reasons I am packing, the Hot Dogs have been raised to $6 from $4.50. Granted they are Hebrew National and a better dog than the crap they had last year but $6 for a Hot Dog? Other price increases, Coke went from $5 to $5.75, what a rip off and it's a crappy souvenir cup that nobody will take home. One other outrageous increase, Popcorn, yes a little tub of popcore is now $6. Last year on opening day the same popcore was $4.

Another complaint, most of the beer plugs at food stations weren't working. Now Beer is still the same at $8 but because none of them were working you had to buy your beer from the vendor that came to your seat, they are charging $8.50. That's fine with me, if they want to charge 50 cents for the service, I won't give you a dollar tip, screw you.

Other than that the Nationals still fielded a crappy opening day team, they have now lost 6 of 7 opening days and again won't celebrate being in first place, even if it's for a day.

LoveDaNats said...

Coldest opening day since 2008. But am impressed. Last year the score would have been 8 - 0. Much better defense. Opening day jitters for offense. I'm still optimistic. The feeling of being back at NatsPark was worth everything! Loved it!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Golfersal, you are a regular little miss sunshine. Did you make a check list of all the things you hate so you can compare it next year?

I for one was stuck working 200 miles away and sort of envied those who could take off and get to the game.

Mary in Springfield said...

Golfersal (and others), instead of buying ballpark hotdogs, get them from one of the vendors outside the ballpark -- the fellow on the corner across from the centerfield gate has great hotdogs, I think $2 or $2.50 each? And large bottles of water for that same price (often partially frozen during hot summer months). My husband & I often get 2 'dogs each from him, plain (though he does have condiments) then use the mustard, onion, etc dispensers inside the ballpark and maybe get a cup of Boardwalk fries to share. The vendor's name is "Ali" and if you become somewhat of a 'regular' he may occasionally give you a discount or a free bottle of water on a hot day. He's not a friend or relative, just a vendor whose business we've enjoyed since the days at RFK.

Anonymous said...

And if you're craving Five Guys, go a couple of blocks over by the Dept of Transportation before the game and get your burgers and fries for half the price they charged in the ballpark.

dryw said...


Yes, but I wouldn't be the only loquacious one! My point was that after EVERY play at first, no matter how routine, I heard comments around me about how it's a good thing we didn't have Dunn any more. Of course Dunn didn't hit a homer every time up--but he also didn't miss every play at first. As I recall it, he even made a nice one every now and then.

So, Dunn is gone, we wish him well. I would've loved to continue to watch him hit bombs here, but I'll still love watching my Nats play. My only point was that if we're going to move on, we need to move on completely and stop talking about what he would or wouldn't have done in ANY situation.

Anonymous said...

As long as they allow us to bring food in, they can charge whatever they want inside for the food.

But the beer prices are outrageous. I was skiing in Vail last month, a place not known for low prices, where the customers are as captive as in the ballpark, and high quality draft beer on the premises was $5.50, versus $8 or $8.50 for Miller Lite, which barely qualifies as beer at all.

They'll keep charging it as long as people keep buying it, so bring in bottled water.

Anonymous said...

Waaaaa! Waaaaa! They took 5 guys away! Waaaaaaaaaaaa! Just stay home then

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