The Washington Nationals play the Atlanta Braves in the first of a three-game series Friday at 1:10 pm. Sounds clinical when it’s put in those terms. That could describe any series opening game at any point in the season.
But this series opener is also the home opener on the schedule — the first of 81 games in the regular season for the Nats to play with a homefield advantage. It’s also the first time for many in attendance — yours truly included — to see the Nats for the first time in person this calendar year. Unless you were fortunate enough to make a pilgrimage to Viera for Spring Training, or shuffled up to New York to see the Mets series, you’re in the same boat.
This game would have been special – for fans, the players, the organization, the city – regardless of circumstances. But it comes on the heels of a three-game sweep of the division rival Mets. Most opening days come with as much uncertainty as excitement. But Friday’s home opener comes with added enthusiasm. We’ve already seen a lot of what the Nats could be this season in just three games
We’ve already seen Stephen Strasburg recover from a shaky start to strike out 10 in six innings. We’ve seen Gio Gonzalez dominate an undermanned Mets team — and smack a home run to boot.
Ryan Zimmerman’s second inning blast Thursday reminds us of just how important a player he is for the team, just as his throwing error Wednesday reminds us that his defense isn’t what it used to be, and may never be again.
Tanner Roark showed more of the promise in Thursday’s emergency start that he gave a glimpse of at the end of last season. Denard Span, Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa all had a promising opening series after last season’s disappointments. And Jayson Werth kept on hitting.
What we haven’t seen yet is Bryce Harper bust out with any noise yet. Manager Matt Williams indicated in his pregame press conference that Harper’s swing was a “tick off” so far. Asked to elaborate, Williams declined, saying he was not at liberty to talk about it. Cause for concern? Maybe, but worry? Not yet.
The Nats have won coming from behind late. They’ve dominated a game. And they’ve grinded a win out for a late-blooming prospect. We’ve seen a lot so far in just three games, and that makes the home opener that much more exciting for the home fans. This is a season of big possibilities. It’ll take six months to play out.
But we’ve already seen a lot.
Happy Opening Day everyone.