It would not be an exaggeration to say that nearly half of the 41,290 fans in Nationals Park this afternoon were Philadelphia Phillies fans. If it wasn't obvious from all the Philly t's, caps and jerseys around the park, it became clear in the top of the fourth, when Ryan Howard launched a first-pitch curve from Nats' starter John Lannan deep into the right field seats for a two-run HR that put Philly up 2-1 over Washington to the roaring approval of the crowd. Lannan had walked the first batter he faced for the second straight inning. In the third, DC backstop Pudge Rodriguez erased the leadoff walk when he cut Phils' catcher Carlos Ruiz down at second on a weak dribbler of an attempted sac bunt from career-American Leaguer and current Phils' starter, Roy Halladay, but in the fourth, the Nationals' 24-year-old left-hander had Howard to deal with instead of the opposing pitcher and Lannan paid for putting second baseman Chase Utley on in front of the Phillies' slugger. After the HR, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino singled in succession, scoring another run, 3-1, and drawing DC Pitching Coach Steve McCatty out to the mound in an attempt to calm Lannan down, but the Nats' Opening Day lefty allowed a run-scoring, one-out single (on what looked like a suicide squeeze attempt by the Philly starter), a walk and a sac fly as the Phillies batted around, and a two-out single that loaded the bases, and ended Lannan's day, with only a brave performance by left-hander Jesse English, in his MLB debut, keeping the game close at 5-1, as English retired Ryan Howard after Philly had put together a 5-run fourth in what would end up an 11-1 win.
• Miss The Game? Check out the Opening Day GameThread.
• Win Probability: "Worst. Opener. Ever." - Doghouse.
Nationals now 0-1.
• Obama Pulls Fast One.
• New Season, Same Problems.
• Obama Pulls Fast One.
President Barack Obama took the field to a smattering of boos and catcalls, but mostly cheers, and instead of the Chicago White Sox jacket he'd worn when he threw out the first pitch at the '09 MLB All-Star game, the President wore what I was told was a custom-made bright red Nationals jacket. (ed. note - "Seriously some random fan next to me told me it was custom made, I don't know..."). Seeing the 44th President of the United States in Nats' gear, with all the respect and attention such a gesture would draw to the team, for once had Nationals' fans feeling a sense of pride. President Obama took the mound, and stood tall as the Face of the DC Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, waited for the Ceremonial First Pitch at home plate, but before the President made the throw, he reached into his pocket, and pulled out a black cap with three familiar letters, which let the entire baseball world exactly where his on-field loyalties remained, "S-O-X". No, he didn't do that did he? Yes he had. And all of a sudden the story wasn't about Barack Obama throwing out the first pitch for the Nationals, but instead about how the President had pulled a fast one on the Nats, which is only fitting when the biggest story of Opening Day in the nation's capital ended up being about the quarterback the Redskins had acquired that morning. Maybe the Nationals should've asked Hall of Famer and former Nats' Skipper Frank Robinson to throw out the first pitch, but he probably would've pulled a Montreal Expos cap out of his pocket. Seriously, President Obama, what's your cap size? Federal Baseball.com would like to buy you your first curly-W cap...tell the White House staff (@whitehouse) to let us know on Twitter (@federalbaseball.)
• New Season, Same Problems.
DC lefty John Lannan got two outs deeper into his twenty-ten debut than he had in the '09 season opener against the Marlins, when he allowed 6 hits and 6 ER in 3.0 innings pitched. Lannan allowed 7 hits and 5 ER, threw 72 pitches, 38 for strikes and allowed 3 walks in 3.1 IP Monday afternoon. Left-handed reliever Jesse English got the final out of the fourth and came back for a quick 1-2-3 frame in the fifth, after which veteran right-hander Miguel Batista took over on the mound. Batista walked the first batter he faced, catcher Carlos Ruiz again, and gave up his first ER of the season when Jimmy Rollins tripled Ruiz in. A single by Placido Polanco scored Rollins to put Philly up 7-1 after six, and in spite of his struggles, Batista came back out for the seventh.
A leadoff walk, one out single and intentional base on balls ended Batista's day, and right-hander Jason Bergmann was called upon to pitch the Nats out of another bases-loaded jam. Two fastballs later it was 11-1, as Bergmann served up a grand slam to Placido Polanco that put Washington down by ten runs and thrilled every Philly fan in attendance. Sean Burnett gave up a leadoff single then retired three straight. Brian Bruney walked the leadoff batter in the ninth, surrendered a two-out single and then gave up another base on balls to load'em up before retiring Ryan Howard in a tough 6-pitch AB. Bruney needed 33 pitches, 17 of them strikes to get through the ninth. The DC bullpen, which struggled all Spring, showed little sign of improvement, outside of English's debut. It'll be interesting to see if Matt Capps' Grapefruit League numbers were a fluke or a sign of things to come.
• The Nationals' lone run?
Nyjer Morgan's line drive single in the top of the first started the season off on a positive note, and Ryan Zimmerman's run-scoring double off the wall in right center almost made it out, as Washington took an early 1-0 lead. But the Phillies' new ace quickly settled in, allowing just 6 hits and the 1 ER in 7.0 total innings pitched, over which he walked 2 and K'd 9. Halladay threw 88 pitches, 59 for strikes, and dominated the Nats after the first...