Nationals’ Strasburg, Harper dominate Marlins on Opening Day

In their first game of the season, the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins at home Monday, 2-0. Stephen Strasburg pitched seven scoreless innings for the Nationals, and Bryce Harper hit two home runs:

Strasburg threw seven clinical innings in which the Miami Marlins looked all but helpless, and Harper hit a missile-like home run in each of his first two at-bats, the only runs necessary in what became a 2-0 victory on opening day. (Read the story here.)

These two young players will continue to improve and perform for the team, Thomas Boswell writes in his column this morning:

If this day was any hint, the rest of baseball can brace for hardship, Washington for the sight of two of the biggest baseball talents in many years as they improve rapidly, learn the subtleties of their game and, it now seems, thrive on the fuel of trying to surpass each other’s dazzling deeds.

Harper hit the first home run in the first inning after Miami pitcher Ricky Nolasco retired the Nationals’ first two batters. Adam Kilgore describes the at-bat:

Harper came to the plate in the first inning with two outs and no one on base. Ricky Nolasco started him with a splitter, an 82-mph pitch Harper regarded with indifference as it dropped out of the strike zone. Nolasco then threw a sweeping, 73-mph curveball, trying to curl over a breaking ball for strike one when most hitters would expect a fastball.

When Nolasco tried the curve, Harper lashed at the ball, all controlled violence, and smashed a laser toward right field. Giancarlo Stanton sprinted to the warning track and stared up at the ball as a fan — impersonating Jayson Werth in both full uniform and facial hair — snagged it with a glove. The park — and the clubhouse — was frenzied. (Read the rest of the story here.)

Strasburg, meantime, allowed only three hits and recorded 19 consecutive outs between the first inning and the seventh inning. Nationals manager Davey Johnson replaced him before the eighth, a decision columnist Jason Reid says was justified:

There was no good reason for Johnson to push Strasburg to the eighth or ninth. “He did what he had to do,” Johnson said of his ace. After Strasburg left the game, Tyler Clippard worked a scoreless eighth and new closer Rafael Soriano cruised to his first save.

Soriano pitched for the New York Yankees last season. This outing was his first with the Nationals, but Soriano doesn’t seem to have changed at all:

The highest-paid reliever in baseball performed his usual, peculiar pre-pitching routine — drawing a line behind the rubber with his pointer finger and staring into his hat after warming up. The results were utterly dominating, sitting down the heart of the Marlins order with 11 picture-perfect pitches for his first save, a far cry from his unspectacular spring.

Soriano, Strasburg, and Tyler Clippard pitched to Wilson Ramos, the catcher who returned to competition yesterday after spending most of the past year recuperating from a knee injury:

He went 1 for 2 with a hard single to left and a walk, making him one of only three Nationals to reach base multiple times. He also played a key role in the Nationals’ odd 7-2-3-4-2 double play in the seventh inning.

The team won in front of a packed house:

If opening day 2013 was any indication, baseball, which returned to the District in 2005, has finally permeated the fabric of this city and region. The announced attendance of 45,274 set a record for a regular-season game. Mike Corum, 62, paid $40 to a scalper for a spot in the standing-room-only crowd. He said he felt as if he got a bargain.

See the box score from Opening Day here.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.

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