Braves – 2, Nationals – 0

With the dust now firmly settled in Viera, where the Nationals posted their first winning Spring Training record (15-14) in history, yesterday’s wind blew in Opening Day for your 2011 Washington Nationals. A new look, donned by new faces, and a whole lot of new questions. Will replacing home runs with LaRoche’s defense pay off at 1st base? Is Werth, the franchise’s $126 million man, capable of filling the offensive void left by offseason departures, Willingham and Dunn? While the wait for the first pitch of the MLB season is now over, the wait for the answers to these questions will continue.

Through 5.2 innings pitched and only 3 hits given up, Derek Lowe safely handled the Nats offense in today’s opener. In an almost curious lineup with Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth batting 1,2, Desmond batted 0-4 in the leadoff with 2 strikeouts, while Werth finished 1-4 on the day. In a low-scoring game with sluggish offense from both sides, the telling stat for the Nats was 10 runners left-on-base, 4 of which were stranded by the journeyman slugger, Michael Morse, who finished 0-4 with 2 strikeouts.

Something positive to take away from this loss is that Livan Hernandez seems to be pitching like Livan Hernandez, (6.1IP, 4H, 2R, 3K), swallowing up innings and alleviating pressure off the bullpen. Out of the bullpen, Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey, and the recently re-signed Sean Burnett, all did their part, preventing any further damage, giving up a combined 1 hit in 2 2/3 innings pitched. Doug Slaten failed to produce results, walking one batter, after coming in solely for a lefty-righty matchup.

One thing to keep in mind of course: this was just the first game of the season, with 161 still to play, so to sensationalize the problems found in this game as a potential recurring theme throughout the season would be preemptive and irrational. Although, it is worth noting that with Ankiel, LaRoche, and Werth added to the lineup, the one excuse Nats fans will be relieved to hear they can no longer use is youth.

Chris Lingebach
Nationals Beat Reporter


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