FINAL: The Nats took the lead after Chad Tracy doubled to right, Carroll came in to pinch run and scored on a Desmond single. Lidge came in to pitch and held on for a 2-1 Nats win.
4:31, TOP 8: Jayson Werth tied the game after he worked back from an 0-2 count and took four straight balls to draw a bases loaded walk. Kerry Wood had also walked Ryan Zimmerman and LaRoche. It’s 1-1. The Nats couldn’t support Strasburg with their bats, but they did with their eyes.
4:18, TOP 8: After striking out 10 in 7 2/3 innings, Ryan Dempster departs in favor of Kerry Wood. He’ll face Zimmerman with Desmond, who hit a seeing-eye single, on first with two down.
4:09, END 7: Strasburg is done for the day after seven magnificent innings. He allowed five hits, all singles, while walking one and striking out five. There was little, if any, hard contract made against him all day. And yet he can only take the loss – the Nationals have not had a hit since Ian Desmond led off the game with a single. 1-0, Cubs.
3:55, END 6: Strasburg shifted into another gear after he allowed the run. He has struck out 4 of the next 6 batters he faced, including Starlin Castro on a 98-mph heater, his fastest pitch of the day. But the Nats still trail, 1-0. He’s thrown 70 pitches through six.
3:41, END 5: In his second at-bat, Harper, first-pitch swinging, lined a single to right. He’s 2 for 2 in Class AAA, both hits coming off Red Wings starter P.J. Walters. Harper also stole second with a head-first slide.
Strasburg, meanwhile, is crusing along. He struck out two in a 1-2-3 inning. The Cubs have backed off their aggression, and Strasburg has thrown many more offspeed pitches — he struck out DeJesus on a changeup. Dempster has found a groove, retiring eight in a row. It’s 1-0, Cubs.
3:25, BOT 4: From Dave Sheinin in Syracuse comes word that Bryce Harper doubled in his first at-bat today, a soft liner over the first baseman’s head.
Meanwhile, the Cubs have struck first inChicago. Marlon Byrd hooked a single to left, scoring Ian Stewart to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead with two outs. Strasburg got out of the inning one batter later, when Zimmerman snagged Geovany Soto’s liner. He’s thrown 45 pitches. Davey Johnson said he could throw between 80 and 100 today.
3:13, END 3: The Cubs really made Strasburg work in the third – he threw 12 pitches. DeJesus hit a first-pitch single up the middle. Otherwise, Strasburg cruised. He’s only thrown 26 pitches today as the Cubs continue to hack away.
3:08, MID 3: The middle of the Nationals’ lineup squandered yet another opportunity, again largely because of an Adam LaRoche strikeout in which it appeared he had no chance. With one out, Desmond reached an on error and Espinosa drew his second walk. Zimmerman followed with another walk. But LaRoche struck out on three pitches, missing badly on the first and last. Werth put a charged into a pitch, but it died on the warning track. Still scoreless.
2:52, END 2: After Dempster mowed down the Nats 1-2-3, Strasburg bored his way through another seven-pitch inning, ending with a strikeout of Marlon Byrd on an 82-mph curveball, which followed a 96-mph fastball on his hands. Just unfair. Werth made a nice catch on a sinking liner in right for the second out of the inning.
Strasburg has thrown 14 pitches. The Cubs are trying to attack Strasburg early in the count, and it has backfired. Still scoreless.
2:42, END 1: Stephen Strasburg allowed one (strange) hit a scoreless first, using only seven pitches against a Cubs lineup looking to strike early in the count. Strasburg hovered around 95 miles per hour with his fastball. After two quick outs, Starlin Castro popped to the middle of the diamond. Strasburg pointed at the ball and got out of the way – but no infield had time to reach it, and it dropped for a single. Alfonso Soriano crushed the first pitch he saw, but the stiff breeze knocked it down.
2:36, MID 1: Ian Desmond led off the season, true to form, by swinging at the first pitch. He flared a single to right. Danny Espinosa followed with a walk, a pretty much perfect start. Ryan Zimmerman flied to center to put two men in scoring position. But Ryan Dempster struck out LaRoche swinging way early at a changeup, and Jayson Werth skied a 1-1 sinker to center. A missed opportunity. Scoreless.
PREGAME: The Nationals and Cubs have been announced, the anthem has been sung and the season is about to begin. Bill Murray ran around the bases before throwing out the first pitch, incuding a slide into home. He had dirt all over his dress pants when he threw the pitch. Feel free to follow along if you’re stuck at work, and if you played hooky, tell us what you’re thinking about the opener in the comments section.