LOVERRO: Everything comes together for Baker.
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
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.