After he returned from a broken left wrist late last summer, Werth hit .300 with a .394 on-base percentage. But he also drilled only three home runs, which he attributed to weakness in his wrist that caused him to use a bat weighing an ounce and a half less than his usual model. This year, Werth is back to his regular model – his “homer bat,” he calls it – and feeling more confident in his wrist strength. For one swing, he had plenty.
“I think [reporters] are a little more worried about my wrist than anybody else,” Werth said. “I feel pretty confident where I’m at. I feel good. I feel strong.”
Zimmermann did not dominate like Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez before him, but he tap-danced around raindrops for six innings. He struck out just one and allowed eight hits over six innings, but he surrendered only one run.
The Marlins spared themselves the indignity of becoming the first team since 1916 to begin the season with three consecutive shutout losses. The Nationals’ ran their season-opening scoreless streak to 19 innings before Ruggiano blasted a first-pitch, 94-mph fastball over the right-center field fence to lead off the second inning. Zimmermann couldn’t help feeling a little let down allowing the first run of the season. “I was thinking about that before the game,” he said.
By that point, though, the Nationals had already seized a lead they would not relinquish. In the first inning, Werth flared a single to left, and Harper followed with another to right. Zimmerman figures to have ample opportunities with runners clogging the bases given the hitters ahead of him, and he took full advantage of those. Zimmerman smoked LeBlanc’s 2-2 change-up off the center field fence, a clear double.
Werth could trot home. Harper, having to wait to first ensure the deep drive would fall, sped behind him. Third base coach Trent Jewett windmilled Harper home.
Cutoff man Donovan Solano’s throw hopped home in time to retire Harper, but catcher Rob Brantly let the ball skip past him as Harper slid into the plate. Harper crashed into Brantly’s elbow and, for one harrowing moment, writhed in the dirt and grabbed his face.
“The way he reacted, I thought he got shot or something,” Werth said. “I wanted to make sure the little guy was all right.”
Harper hopped up, though, and a few minutes later he sat in the dugout, laughing with Friday starter Dan Haren.
“It was fine,” Harper said. “He got me in the chin. I was just seeing if it was bleeding or not.”
The scare averted, the Nationals returned to the business of dominating the Marlins. The team plane would depart for Cincinnati later, headed for the next challenge in a long season off to a roaring start.
“We’ve got to feel good about where we’re at,” Werth said. “But it’s going to be a long, hard road.”