Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer strikes out 10 as the Nats win 2-0. Opening Day rings sweet against the Cincinnati Reds.
For the Washington Nationals, the extra day was worth the wait.
The Nats started the season Friday afternoon with a gutsy 2-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Max Scherzer struck out 10 and the “Law Firm” slammed the door. It was tense, but worth it.
Here are three mini-takeaways to file in the back of your mind.
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SCHERZER FLAT-OUT DOMINANT
The first three innings of Scherzer’s start were astounding.
The fastball had movement. His off-speed pitches were well timed, throwing off hitters trying to adjust to his hard stuff.
As he often does after ringing up a high-K count early, Scherzer kicks in his pitch-to-contact mode and gutted out his last two innings. He went six, threw 100 pitches with 67 counted as strikes.
On a cold day where fly balls find gloves instead of seats, the Nats offense sputtered. The lineup made tons of loud contact against Reds starter Homer Bailey but they went on the scorecard as outs and not hits.
In a well-pitched game by both clubs, Washington clung to a 1-0 lead into the ninth when Michael Taylor dropped a perfect drag bunt down the third-base line. Taylor stole second, moved to third on a Matt Wieters grounder and scored easily on a Brian Goodwin sacrifice fly.
If you watched any of the Grapefruit League games from Florida, you saw the Nats go overly aggressive on the bases. They had to test their limits.
The result? A huge manufactured insurance run doubling the lead while taking the pressure off closer Sean Doolittle.
Modern teams are too content waiting for the big home run to score. Although plating multiple runs at once is nice, sometimes one counts more than three. Washington put immediate pressure on Cincinnati to shut Taylor down and won.
Expect more of the same this year.
It was important to create that run because Washington went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position while stranding eight.
You cannot put that much pressure on the bullpen often and get away with it. Expect, if Ryan Zimmerman struggles again this weekend, for the Nats to juggle the lineup to get the hot hands around Rendon and Harper.
A good win to start the year.