The Nationals played to their strengths in Monday's opener against the Giants. And by strengths, I am referring to their traditional success in riding dominant starting pitching to victory.
That is what Jake Irvin did on Monday night. Irvin was nothing short of dominant against the Giants, throwing 6.1 innings of shutout baseball with only 4 hits and 3 walks allowed to 5 strikeouts. Irvin, whose scouting report tells you struggles with walks and overall command, was in the strikezone early and often against the San Fran lineup, throwing 54 of his 92 pitches for strikes. He lost his command a bit as he tired, but it was a very promising start for the young righty.
Irvin was utilizing his fastball/sinker combo to get ahead in counts and his devastating curveball as his putaway pitch. Irvin also throws a changeup (as seen above), albeit sparingly, but when he did throw it, he had success. Irvin will likely need to fully develop that changeup in order to stick around as a starter in the league as you need to have more than two pitches, but if he can throw it like he did on Monday, he will be just fine.
Before Irvin even took the mound, the game got off to a hot start as the Nationals rallied off four straight singles to start the game off Giants' pitcher Anthony Descalfani. Lane Thomas, Luis Garcia, Keibert Ruiz and Joey Meneses went back-to-back-to-back-to-back singles to start the game and after a Candelario fly out, the Nationals went single, double, single by Dom Smith, Alex Call and CJ Abrams to score 5 first inning runs on 7 hits. Abrams had the big hit of the inning with a two RBI single.
It was an impressive start for the offense just as it was an impressive start for Jake Irvin. The differense is, however, that the offense did not finish nearly as well as it started. Considering the Nationals scored 5 first inning runs on 7 hits, you would have expected them to knock DeScalfani out of the game early and force the Giants to use their bullpen more than they wanted to. Instead, DeScalfani really settled in and pitched well, including a stretch of retiring 10 batters in a row en route to a 7 inning performance. He did not allow a run after the first inning.
The Nationals had 5 runs on 7 hits in the first inning but 0 runs on 4 hits the remainder of the game. Thankfully, their pitching did well enough that 5 runs was enough, but consistency continues to be this offense's biggest issue. Nevertheless, the Nationals held on to win by a score of 5 to 1.
The Nationals defense also came up big throughout the game as they utilized their best weapon and turned FOUR double plays in the contest, including a clutch one in the 8th inning to get Carl Edwards Jr. out of a jam. The Nationals lead major league baseball in double plays turned per game with 1.11.