I love what I do because of nights like tonight. Rick Ankiel, a career .245 hitter, proved to be a hero tonight in the Nats’ 2-0 win over the Florida, sorry, Miami Marlins. Ankiel blasted a solo shot to dead center in the bottom of the third to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead (and their first hit), and also made yet another tremendous throw in the half inning before that to hold Giancarlo Stanton at third base. Stanton would not end up scoring, and Ross Detwiler would get out of the inning untouched, despite having runners on second and third with one out to.
Not much other scoring to report tonight, as the Nationals would only score one other run on an eighth-inning Ian Desmond single, which would plate Ankiel, giving him his second run scored of the night.
If Ankiel can continue to be an effective player on both sides of the ball, that will take away the incentive for the Nationals to rush top prospect Bryce Harper to the big leagues in June or July, which could help him in his development. A good Rick Ankiel is exactly what the Nationals need right now, especially if Danny Espinosa can’t get out of his funk.
As you may have noticed by the big old goose egg in the headline, the Marlins did not score any runs, which means that pitching was absolutely spectacular. Ross Detwiler, who wasn’t even part of this rotation back in Spring Training, pitched like an ace. Detwiler went a scoreless game while striking out seven, only to be pulled after six in favor of pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina. Detwiler started only one game in Spring Training, so the team is still trying to get him some work before pushing to the 100-pitch limit. But, Detwiler now sits at 2-0 for the season with a 0.56 ERA and 15 strikeouts over 16 innings. Who needs Strasburg? Detwiler’s an ace! He leads the league in ERA!
“If I’m surprising myself, then I shouldn’t be here.” – Detwiler, upon being told that he leads league in ERA #NATITUDE
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But, he wasn’t the only one who pitched well.
Craig Stammen also had another stellar appearance in relief tonight, pitching an inning of scoreless relief and striking out one. He also grabbed his first hold of the year, and lowered his season ERA down to 1.04. Stammen has had a breakout season thus far, and should it continue, he could be one of the best relievers in baseball.
This was more than just a win for the Nationals. It was their first test against a team that people expect to finish over .500. Though starting 10-4 is nothing to sneeze at, the ten wins came against the Cubs, Mets and Astros, all of whom finished below .500 last year, and in the case of the Astros, failed to win 60 games (56). Granted the Marlins only won 72 games last year, but when you bring in Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano (you laugh, but look at his stats from tonight), I promise you’re not going to win 72 again. This is a playoff contending team, and tonight the Nationals got it done. Now they need to prove that they can win a series against a playoff-contending team. Doing so would make a statement, and would secure a winning April.
“My guys know this is a big test for us, this is a big series.” – Davey after the #Nats took game 1 from the #Marlins, 2-0
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Champ of the Game: Though Detwiler pitched outstanding, Rick Ankiel gets the award. He scored both runs, went yard, and saved a run on his solid throw from center field. However, Detwiler does get props once again for his performance, and a congratulations on leading the league in ERA.
Carlos Zambrano pitched well in his own right for the Marlins, going seven innings while only giving up the one run on two hits while striking out six. He’s gotten off to a solid start in Miami, now with a season ERA of 2.84. At this rate he will look like an absolute steal for the Marlins.
Chump of the Game: I hate pointing fingers after an exciting win, but Danny Espinosa gets the Chump of the Game tonight. He went 0-4, stranded two, and struck out twice. As a number two hitter his job is to get on base, and he failed to do so tonight, and lowered his batting average to .216. He must pick it up if the Nationals are to win consistently.
For the Marlins, Hanley Ramirez struck out three times, finishing 0-4 and stranding three runners. Hanley’s supposed to be a feared hitter in the Miami lineup, and he wasn’t. He must perform tomorrow night if the Marlins want to avoid dropping the second game of the series.