Observations from and analysis of the Nats’ season-opening sweep at the Reds
Game 1: 2-0 win on Friday (March 30)
Game 2: 13-7 win on Saturday afternoon (March 31)
Game 3: 6-5 win on Sunday (April 1)
1. The biggest item from this series was the offense over the last two games and two guys in particular over the three games in Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper.
The Nats had just six hits to go with four walks in the 2-0 season-opening win on Friday, which was a cold and cloudy day in Cincinnati. But Harper did quite well. He had two singles and a walk and made one of the sneaky-good plays of the game, sliding hard but cleanly into second base to prevent a double play on a Ryan Zimmerman RBI fielder’s choice that scored Adam Eaton in the top of the first. The single that put Harper on first base in that first inning came on an 0-2 pitch.
The Nats pounded 14 hits, including four homers and two doubles, and worked four walks in the 13-7 win at the Reds on Saturday afternoon. Eaton was sensational, smashing a solo homer, two doubles, a two-run single and another single. Matt Adams, who Dave Martinez curiously had batting in the no. 4 spot, made his manager look smart by having a three-run homer in the top of the first and a walk. Brian Goodwin smashed a grand slam in the top of the ninth and had a single.
And Eaton and Harper continued to mash in the 6-5 win at the Reds on Sunday. Eaton had a two-run homer in the top of the seventh and a single. Harper hit two solo homers and drew a walk. The second solo homer came after one of the few fans at Great American Ballpark yelled “Overrated!” at Harper. Also, Anthony Rendon, who batted in the no. 2 spot in all three games in this series, blasted a two-run homer in the top of the first.
Eaton, who batted in the leadoff spot in all three games, went 8-for-13 with two homers, two doubles, a walk, five RBI and seven runs in the series. He had a leadoff single and scored a run in the first inning of each game in the series. Talk about an ignitor.
Harper went 4-for-10 with two homers, two walks, four RBI and three runs in the series.
The Nats smashed eight homers and had an .887 OPS in feasting on the Reds’ woeful pitching in this series.
2. The Nats got three strong outings from the rotation to begin the season.
Max Scherzer was terrific in the 2-0 season-opening win at the Reds on Friday, picking up right where he left off from his back-to-back National League Cy Young-winning seasons. He tossed six scoreless innings, recording 10 strikeouts versus just five hits (including four singles) and a walk. This was one of those Max outings in which you could tell that he had it going on from the get-go. The nit to pick would be that he threw 100 pitches over the six innings and thus didn’t last longer. But this in many ways was because Max was too good for his own good. Strikeouts require pitches. Ten of the 18 outs registered by Max were strikeouts. He struck out seven consecutive batters beginning in the bottom of the second and then lasting into the bottom of the fourth. Yes, the Reds aren’t good. But whatever. Scooter Gennett actually had three hits off Max. The rest of the Reds totaled two.
Stephen Strasburg was good in the 13-7 win at the Reds on Saturday afternoon, allowing three runs (but just one earned) in 6 1/3 innings on seven strikeouts versus one walk. He did give up eight hits, but seven of them were singles. The other was a solo homer by Scott Schleber in the bottom of the fourth. The two unearned runs came in the bottom of the sixth off a Trea Turner fielding error.
And then Gio Gonzalez was strong in the 6-5 win at the Reds on Sunday: one run in six innings on seven strikeouts versus five hits and a walk.
3. The Nats’ bullpen got off to a nice start that yielded a new nickname. But the last two games didn’t go so well, and Nats relievers for the series ultimately gave up eight runs in 8 2/3 innings.
Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle each tossed a scoreless inning in the 2-0 season-opening win at the Reds on Friday. Kintzler recorded two ground outs and then a strikeout in a perfect seventh; remember, he entered this season no. 14 among all qualified relievers over the last two seasons in ground-ball percentage (58.0). Madson did allow back-to-back two-out singles in the bottom of the eighth. But Doolittle sandwiched two strikeouts around a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth. And after the game Dave Martinez may have given us a new nickname for the trio previously known as The Law Firm, instead calling it The Three Horsemen.
Matt Grace and Enny Romero each allowed two runs in the 13-7 win at the Reds on Saturday afternoon. Grace allowed a leadoff double to Scott Schleber and then a two-run homer to Adam Duvall to begin the bottom of the eighth. Romero allowed a leadoff walk to Jesse Winker (who had been down 1-2) and then a two-run homer to Eugenio Suarez (who had also been down 1-2) to begin the bottom of the ninth.
Sammy Solis and Doolittle each allowed two runs in the 6-5 win at the Reds on Sunday. Solis faced four batters to begin the Reds’ two-run eighth and went walk, RBI double, walk, hit-by-pitch. Dave Martinez, who was trying to stay away from using Ryan Madson, had to bring in Madson in that bottom of the eighth, and he induced a run-scoring double play from Adam Duvall and then struck out Scooter Gennett (who killed in the Nats in this series) with runners on second and third to end the inning. I’m still wondering how Dusty Baker went to Solis in the top of the seventh of the 9-8 NLDS Game 5 loss to the Cubs last October. Doolittle issued a one-out hit-by-pitch of Scott Schleber and then gave up a two-out two-run homer to Phil Gosselin in the bottom of the ninth in recording the “save” in yet another example of how little that stat should mean.