Nationals Start Season Sizzling, Sweep Marlins
Bryce Harper blast a homerun to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead over the Florida Marlins during season opener at the Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. courtesy of Anand Photo
WASHINGTON, D.C.- Phenom Bryce Harper slammed two home runs in his first two plate appearances of the year to help the Washington Nationals hit the ground running from day one.
Harper, 20, became the youngest player in Major League Baseball history to hit homers in the first two at-bats to begin a season. The reigning National League Rookie of the Year took the Miami Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco deep on nearly identical breaking balls in the first and fourth innings of the Nats’ home opener.
Harper’s solo bombs would provide the only runs needed in game one. Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg complemented his teammates’ two homers with seven innings of shutout ball, scattering three hits while striking out three.
Strasburg, who the team held to an innings limit last season and shut down before postseason play, did not walk a batter and grooved through the Marlins’ mediocre lineup.
Miami, which finished 69-93 last year, good for last place in the NL East, traded All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes along with pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and outfielder Emilio Bonifacio to the Toronto Blue Jays during the off-season.
The team dumped its core of players to clear up salary cap space and the move has the team’s current lineup looking lackluster.
Miami scored one run in three games against Washington, which finished 98-64 atop the NL East last season. Outfielder Justin Ruggiano was the lone man to cross home plate for the Marlins after his second-inning home run off the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmerman in game three.
The Nats went on to win the finale by a score of 6-1, in which Zimmerman tossed six innings, giving up eight hits, walking two and striking out one. Right fielder Jayson Werth connected on his first home run of the season in the seventh inning to break the game open.
The game sandwiched in between those two contests featured Gio Gonzalez putting on a one-man show at Nationals Park.
The hard-throwing lefty threw six innings without allowing a run, allowing two hits and two walks. Gonzalez struck out five batters and helped himself out at the plate, knocking his second career homer over the left field fence to break a 0-0 tie in the fifth inning.
The Nationals believed they could contend for a World Series trophy last season, but came up short after blowing a 7-5 lead in the ninth inning to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Division Series. But the heart-breaking loss has the Nats hungrier than ever.
Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo brought in closer Rafael Soriano and starter Dan Haren in free agency to add to a pitching staff that finished second in the MLB with a 3.33 combined earn run average (ERA).
Rizzo also added outfielder Denard Span in a trade with Minnesota to bolster a lineup that finished in the top-10 in the MLB in runs scored and batting average.
What to take away from the Nationals’ opening series sweep of the Marlins: the Nats are ready to bring the first World Series title back to the nation’s capital since 1924.