Game 1: Nationals 2, Cubs 1


Get used to it, Nationals fans. These nail-biting games where an inch one way means ball four to Jayson Werth to force in the tying run and an inch the other way a called strike three to Marlon Byrd to end opening day with a 2-1 Nationals’ victory, their first to open the season since 2008.

Ian Desmond‘s third hit of the game scored pinch runner Brett Carroll with the game winning run, a clutch 2-out RBI single from the Nationals’ shortstop and lead off hitter. Desmond’s three hits tied Jose Vidro (2003) and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez (2010) for the most opening day hits in franchise history.

The franchise ace, Stephen Strasburg pitched marvelously in his first-ever season opening start. Strasburg went 7 innings, and surrendered  five hits, a walks and a single earned run to go with 5 strikeouts, giving manager Davey Johnson exactly what he expected from his top pitcher.  Tyler Clippard pitched a scoreless eighth and Brad Lidge delivered his first save as a National.

Lidge’s save was a vintage Chad Cordero-like heart-stopper, that included a one-out triple by Ian Stewart. The next batter, Chicago first baseman Jeff Baker grounded to Ryan Zimmerman, who gunned down pinch runner Joe Mather at the plate. Lidge then struck out Byrd on a 3-2 fastball to end the game. Byrd thought the pitch was ball four, but home plate umpire Dana DeMuth thought otherwise and the Nationals had their first win in what promises to be many games where the margin between victory and defeat is paper-thin. — Link to boxscore

Champ of the Game: Ian Desmond, who went 3-5 and drove in the game winning run.

For the Cubs, Dempster, who usually dominates the Nats, was stellar, with 10 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.

Chump of the Game: Adam LaRoche, who went 0-3, with three strikeouts, including twice early in the game, once with runners on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out and again with the bases loaded and 1 out. With Strasburg on the mound, a base hit in one of those situations could have put the game away early.

For the Cubs, Kerry Wood issued three consecutive walks to ruin Dempster’s gem and allow Washington to tie the game.

Unsung Heroes: Chad Tracy, with a 9th inning double that made Desmond’s winning hit possible. The wind, which knocked down a few home runs, including one from former National Alfonso Sorian. Umpire DeMuth, who had close calls on the game-tying ball four to Werth and the game-ending strike three to Byrd. Replays showed he got both calls right.

Next game: Saturday, vs. Chicago at Wrigley Field. Gio Gonzalez vs. Matt Garza, Game Time: 1:05 p.m.