When the calendar turned to April we thought we would have Washington Nationals baseball in Nationals Park. We didn’t. In fact we have to wait an extra six days to get the first game in. And part of me feels I should be holding my breath until Max Scherzer delivers that first pitch.
With nearly half the original roster sidelined, including the two big bats the team brought in over the offseason, as well as the National League leader in hits in 2020, the Nationals will be taking the field without a lot of their star power.
With a revamped roster for “Opening Day”, we should temper our expectations for the Nationals, but not put a tally in the loss column just yet.
The starting lineup won’t feature the explosiveness we want it to. There won’t be a Josh Bell or Kyle Schwarber hitting in the middle of the order. You won’t see Yan Gomes, or Alex Avila for that matter. If you wanted to see Brad Hand come out of the bullpen in the ninth inning to notch the save. Not on this day.
Not to say the Nats should throw in the towel.
Don’t expect Max Scherzer to lob the ball over and let the Atlanta Braves take batting practice. We may not get the offense we had dreamed about, but we will get the pitching we have been waiting for. Scherzer is no stranger to pitching on Opening Day, and has done so many times without getting run support. He’ll bring his A-game, regardless.
In place of Bell, is Ryan Zimmerman. The veteran of 15 seasons may not have the power potential as the guy he replaces, though he may. Mr. National hit six spring home runs and finished with an OPS of 1.739. After taking 2020 off, he looks fresh, with a renewed pep in his step and pop in his bat.
Yadiel Hernandez could replace Schwarber in the outfield, or Andrew Stevenson could get the call. Both are capable hitters, and better defenders than the Schwarbes.
Should the game be close late, the Nationals have a couple options at closer. Daniel Hudson has experience, Tanner Rainey is being groomed for the closer’s role and is a hard thrower, and Wander Suero can even step into a high leverage situation.
All this to say, this may not be how Nationals fans wanted to start the 2021 season, but that’s why they play the games. Come game time, 26 professional baseball players will be in uniform for the Nationals looking to bring home a win on Opening Day.