The Nationals new second baseman started off his time in Washington with a bang, hitting a home run and driving in the winning run with an extra-inning double as the Nationals defeated Atlanta 4-3 on opening day of the season.
NATS RECORD 1-0
WP- Treinen (1-0) LP O’Flaherty (0-1) SV- Papelbon (1)
HR- Harper Was (1), Murphy Was (1), Freeman Atl (1), Garcia Atl (1)
STARS of the Game
Third Star- 2015 National League MVP Bryce Harper started the 2016 season as though he has designs on earning that honor a second year in a row. Harper homered in the first inning and walked twice, showing the power and patience he displayed last year. Harper’s home run came off of Atlanta’s Julio Teheran, who has given up four career home runs to the Nats’ star. Harper has a career best five home runs off of Miami’s Tom Koehler, a pitcher he’s scheduled to face on Saturday at Nationals Park.
Second Star- Max Scherzer allowed only two runs in seven solid innings to keep Washington in the game despite several Nats’ failures with runners in scoring position. In 2015, Scherzer allowed two or fewer runs while pitching at least seven innings in 20 of his 33 starts. The Nats’ righty was touched up for two home runs, both of the solo variety, marking the ninth time he’s given up more than one round tripper in a game for Washington.
First Star- Washington thought it was getting a professional hitter when it signed Daniel Murphy to a free agent contract in the off-season, and the hard-nosed infielder proved to be just that in his first game wearing Nats’ colors. Murphy drilled a towering solo home run off of Teheran in the fourth inning to give the Nats’ a 2-1 lead, and them drove home Ryan Zimmerman with the winning run in the tenth on an opposite field double to lead Washington to victory.
The Unsung Hero
Lefty reliever Oliver Perez entered the game in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and two outs, with Atlanta up 3-2 and solid hitter Nick Markakis at the plate. Perez struck the veteran outfielder out to keep Atlanta’s lead at one, and the Nats scratched out a run in the top of the ninth to tie the game. In 2015, Perez held left-handed hitters to a microscopic .517 OPS. Washington hopes Perez can replicate that success against lefties in 2016.
Gallant in a Losing Cause
It’s tempting to go with Freddie Freeman who continues to torture the Nats in head to head battles, but young right-hander Daniel Winkler gets the nod. Replacing an effective Teheran in the seventh, Winkler struck out Danny Espinosa, Scherzer and Michael A. Taylor in impressive fashion.
As Easy as One, Two, Three
Much maligned Nats’ closer Jonathan Papelbon picked up the save by retiring all three batters he faced in the Atlanta 10th. Papelbon had allowed at least one runner to reach base in each of his final 12 appearances in 2015.
Tough Day at the Office
New Braves infielder Gordon Beckham has bounced around from Chicago (AL) to Los Angeles (AL) and now to Atlanta for this season, and he didn’t do much to earn the favor of the fans in his new city on opening day. Beckham struck out in both of his plate appearances on the day, and made a crucial two base throwing error on a Zimmerman grounder that set the table for Murphy’s game winning hit.
The ninth inning rally by Washington to tie the game took relievers Felipe Rivero and Shawn Kelly off the hook. The pitchers, who are expected to provide Washington with solid efforts out of the pen in 2016, both had control issues and allowed Atlanta to take temporary 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eight.
Stephen Strasburg makes his 2016 debut at Turner Field against Atlanta’s Bud Norris in the final game of the two game set between division rivals.