LOVERRO: Ev­ery­thing comes to­gether for Baker.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - THOM LOVERRO

Dusty Baker went into the shower Mon­day af­ter­noon fol­low­ing the Na­tion­als’ 4-2 Open­ing Day win over the Mi­ami Mar­lins at Na­tion­als Park dry.

He came out the same way.

“No hot wa­ter,” he said.

It may have been the only thing that went wrong for the home­town team Mon­day af­ter­noon.

This was one of those “I-love-it-whena-plan-comes-to­gether” wins that of­ten pleased the A-Team’s Han­ni­bal Smith. The su­per­star player, try­ing to re­turn to MVP form af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing 2016 sea­son, home­red in the sixth in­ning to get Washington on the score­board, the fifth time Bryce Harper has home­red on Open­ing Day. The kid knows how to make

an en­trance.

So does Adam Lind.

The free agent bench player from the Seattle Mariners who re­placed fan fa­vorite Clint Robin­son was sent up to the plate by man­ager Dusty Baker — who right now only has 161 games left as Na­tion­als man­ager un­der his cur­rent con­tract sta­tus — to bat for Stephen Stras­burg. The frag­ile hurler had turned in a strong first start of the sea­son, al­low­ing two runs on five hits with three strike­outs and no walks over seven in­nings but was now the los­ing pitcher of record in a 2-1 game.

Several pitches later, Stras­burg was the win­ning pitcher of record. With Matt Wi­eters on first af­ter sin­gling to cen­ter, Lind drove a 2-0 pitch from Mar­lins re­liever David Phelps over the cen­ter field wall to put the Na­tion­als on top 3-2. “That was a big hit by Jeremy Lin,” Baker said. Yes, the Na­tion­als man­ager calls Adam Lind Jeremy Lin.

“Adam Lind, I keep call­ing him Jeremy,” Baker said.

No mat­ter. Dusty got ev­ery­thing else right Mon­day.

With new closer Blake Treinen look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of fac­ing the fear­some Gian­carlo Stan­ton in the top of the ninth with just a one run lead, Daniel Mur­phy got an RBI sin­gle through the in­field to give Treinen a two-run cush­ion go­ing into the ninth.

Treinen didn’t need no cush­ion. He got Stan­ton on a foul pop to first base­man Ryan Zim­mer­man and struck out Justin Bour and Mar­cell Ozuna for the save and the win.

Add to that Trea Turner, mak­ing the move from cen­ter field back to short­stop, turn­ing in some spec­tac­u­lar plays and dis­play­ing a ri­fle arm, and you’ve got a plan that came to­gether – cold wa­ter or not.

“I think the fans went home very, very happy,” Baker said.

They should have. It was all they could have asked for — Harper, Stras­burg, Turner, the new­comer Lind de­liv­er­ing and a closer who can do the job with­out the fear of him chok­ing any of the team’s stars.

There was a lot to like, but per­haps the most en­cour­ag­ing and im­por­tant piece of the plan was Stras­burg’s start. It was ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive and, when it ap­peared to be head­ing to­ward fail­ure in the top of the fourth with three Mar­lins hits scor­ing two runs and giv­ing Mar­lins a 2-0 lead, it turned en­cour­ag­ing when Stras­burg min­i­mized the dam­age right there and went on to pitch three shut­down in­nings, and only left the game af­ter 85 pitches be­cause Washington was in a pinch-hit sit­u­a­tion in the bot­tom of the sev­enth — a Jeremy Lin sit­u­a­tion, if you will.

“Stras gave us more than we had hoped for, es­pe­cially in a first out­ing,” Baker said. “He still had some arm left, but we had to hit for him. His pitch count was rel­a­tively low, and he was sharp against a very good lineup he was fac­ing over there.”

Stras­burg cred­ited his de­fense for help­ing him. “I was def­i­nitely around the strike zone, maybe some­times a lit­tle bit too much, but they made some great plays be­hind me,” he said. “I wanted to go deep into the game. Just keep pound­ing the zone, keep it close and give the guys a chance to win the game.”

Washington’s start­ing pitch­ing depth is sus­pect this year, per­haps more than re­cent sea­sons, and they not be able to af­ford the typ­i­cal Stras­burg emo­tional and phys­i­cal tri­als and tribu­la­tions. They may need him to fi­nally be that guy — not just for part of the sea­son like 2016, but for the whole sea­son, from Open­ing Day to the play­offs.

Day One of 2017 was a good start — a good plan.

● Thom Loverro hosts his weekly pod­cast “Ci­gars & Curve­balls” Wed­nes­days avail­able on iTunes and Google Play.


Washington Na­tion­als out­fielder Bryce Harper slugged a solo home run in the sixth in­ning of a 4-2 win over the Mi­ami Mar­lins on Mon­day. It was Harper’s fifth home run in as many Open­ing Day games.

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