There is anticipation that is rewarded, and there is what happened Monday afternoon at Nationals Park. Washington has hosted 80 seasons of major league baseball, nine since the sport returned in 2005, and even before Stephen Strasburg unleashed his first fastball and Bryce Harper took his first swing, this one brimmed with possibility. And on a day the Nationals began by revealing the 2012 National League East Champions banner above their massive scoreboard, they followed with something more dramatic: unleashing Strasburg and Harper on the rest of baseball.
The right-handed pitcher, just 24, and the precocious outfielder, all of 20, embody baseball’s renaissance here, and they all but staged a public game of one-upsmanship in front of a crowd that — suddenly, it seems — expects extraordinary performances. 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.