Strasburg and Soto-less Nationals Drop 2 of 3 Games to Yankees in Opening Series
The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals started off the COVID shortened MLB season by dropping 2 of 3 games to the Yankees this weekend. Meanwhile the major headlines this weekend come from young star Juan Soto testing positive for Coronavirus the morning of Opening Day and Stephen Strasburg being scratched from Saturday’s start with a nerve issue in his throwing hand.
Opening Day for the Nationals came as bitter sweet this year, as the team raised the World Series Champion flag in left center field with no fans in the stand due to the Coronavirus outbreak. A moment that should have been so special for the city celebrating DC’s first World Series championship team since the 1924 Washington Senators.
The team also fashioned their new white “Nationals” script jerseys which will be their primary home uniform this year, similar to the navy blue jerseys that the team wore on their historic run in the postseason last season. The uniform also included gold stitching and numbers to signify the World Series champioship.
NIAID Director and diehard Nationals fan Dr. Fauci threw out the first pitch heard all around Twitter, making sure to socially distance the ball from home plate just as the CDC recommends. And just like that, the MLB season is (FINALLY!) back.
Max Scherzer started the game for the Nationals in his first start since Game 7 of the World Series, facing a familiar foe in newly acquired Yankee ace Gerrit Cole, whom he faced in Game 1 of the World Series last year when Cole came off a 326 strikeout season with the Houston Astros.
After giving up a 2 run, 459 foot homerun in the first inning to Giancarlo Stanton, Scherzer settled in, striking out the next four batters he faced. Adam Eaton then proceeded to give the Nationals their lone run of the game on a solo homerun ro right field in the bottom of the first. With the bats slow to start for the Nationals, New York added 2 more runs on an Aaron Judge RBI double in the third and a Stanton RBI single in the fifth.
After an overall productive outing by Scherzer, giving up 4 earned runs and striking out 11, the game was called due to torrential downpour after 6 innings. Leaving the official score as a loss for the Nationals in game one, losing 4-1 to Cole and the Yankees.
Game 2 came with the news of Stephen Strasburg’s last minute scratch due to nerve issues in his hand, opening the door for Erick Fedde to show what he can do against a stacked Yankees lineup and further cement his spot as the fifth starter in the rotation.
Fedde did not disappoint, throwing for 4 innings allowing only 1 earned run while striking out 3. The story of the day would come on the offensive side for the Nationals, however. As the team exploded to score 5 runs in the first inning forcing the Yankees to take starting pitcher James Paxton out after just 1 inning.
The Nationals would go on to score 9 runs, lead by a 3-4, 4 RBI performance from CF Victor Robles, an encouraging sign from the rising star who is known more for his glove than his bat. And after a fantastic outing from the bullpen that would see Tanner Rainey get the win, the Nationals would go on to defeat the Yankees 9-2.
Game 3 saw the season debut for Patrick Corbin as he faced off against Jonathan Loaisiga. Trea Turner got things started in the third with a 421 foot solo shot to right followed by an Eric Thames RBI single in the fifth.
Corbin would be taken out after 6.1 innings for an impressive 2 hit, 8 strikeout and 0 walk performance while allowing only 1 earned run.
The bullpen would then proceed to give up 2 homeruns in the seventh inning and an RBI single in the eigth, putting the game at a 3-2 Yankees lead entering the bottom of the ninth.
After Asdrubal Cabrera was able to get the tying run on base with an infield single, pinch runner Emilio Bonifacio stole second on a passed ball to put the tying baserunner in scoring position.
Bonifacio would then get caught stealing third, a stolen base he should’ve easily had but just simply overslid the bag, allowing 3B Gio Urshela to tag his foot while he was readjusting to get back on the base. Yan Gomes would then fly out to center and Michael A Taylor would ground out to end the game, giving the Yankees the 3-2 win in DC.
The Nationals played well this weekend considering they lost two of their biggest stars at the last minute. If you told me the Washington would hold the Yankees to 3 runs per game this weekend I would probably assume they won 2 out of the 3 games. Unfortunately the opposite occured.
The only thing is that with this shortened season the Nationals really don’t have time to find their identity like they were able to do last season. Each game this year is the equivalent to almost 3 games in a regular season which makes every pitch, swing and catch even more important.
The good news is it looks like Strasburg will be able to make his next start and it seems as though Juan Soto could be back after he finishes his quarantine. The season is still young, and there’s a lot of baseball left to be played.
And as we’ve seen, if there is any team that can turn around a season, it’s clearly the Nationals.