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Open Thread: Opening Night In Nationals Park... Atlanta Braves vs Washington Nationals Game 1 of '08.

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This is going up early because I'm headed to DC and will have to be relying on my trusty i-phone to post updates from the game Sunday night as the Washington Nationals start the 2008 season in their brand-new ballpark located on the bank(s?) of the Anacostia River, (the Nationals themselves at their official MLB.com site describe the new stadium as being):

"...in Southeast Washington, south of the Capitol, along the fast-developing Capitol Riverfront adjacent to the Navy Yard."

...And if you are going to the game on Sunday night, and you haven't gotten the message the first 100 times you've heard him say it, Nationals' Team President Stan Kasten is reminding fans one more time in MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article entitled, "Kasten excited for Nationals Park debut", in which Mr. Ladson quotes the team president saying that YOU SHOULD TAKE THE METRO:

"'I've been on metro systems around the world," he(Mr. Kasten) said. "I grew up going to games on the subway -- Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden. I don't know that I've gone to them other than by subway. It's what you should do.'"

I for one will take that advice and park at RFK. A bus or the Metro from there to Nationals Park and back doesn't sound like a bad option. (Is this too "I'm going to the game"-insidey for everyone?) Well then on to the game itself...

"Opening Night" Odalis Perez, whose final Spring start last Tuesday was in a 3-0 Washington loss to St. Louis where the veteran lefty threw 6.0 innings, allowed 7 hits and all 3 ER the Cardinals scored in a game dominated by St. Louis' starter Anthony Reyes, was apparently "humbled" by the relative lack of interest MLB teams showed in his services this offseason, and he tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article entitled, "Perez gets nod for Nationals' Opening Night", that the nod for Opening Night in DC came as a surprise after his late Spring signing with the Nationals:

"'I was trying to make the team,' a humble Perez said. 'I'm happy because I'm getting this opportunity that a lot of people wanted. I know if I came to this team, I was going to have a chance to be in the starting rotation. It never crossed my mind [I would be the Opening Day starter].'"

Odalis Perez is (1-3) in 6 career starts against Atlanta. In 38.0 IP against the Braves the lefty's allowed 43 hits, 22 ER's, 6 HR, 9 walks and K'd 24 with an ERA of 5.21 against America's Favorite team. Perez's history with Atlanta begins with his signing as an Amateur free agent in 1994 and ends with a trade to Los Angeles in 2002, along with reliever Andrew Brown and Brian Jordan, that brings Gary Sheffield to the Braves. 

Atlanta's starter Sunday, the right-handed Tim Hudson, is (5-1, 1.09 ERA) in 8 starts against the Nationals, has pitched 57.2 IP on the hill against DC, and has allowed 45 hits, 7 ER, 9 walks and 1 HR while accumulating 46 K's and throwing one complete game shutout against Washington. Last season, Hudson's third in Atlanta, the thirty-two year old, nine-year veteran was (16-10) with a 3.33 ERA in 34 starts, 4 of which came against Washington, in which Hudson went (4-0) with a 0.60 ERA in 30.0 innings and allowed just 2 earned runs. 

Tim Hudson told MLB.com writer Tom Singer, in an article entitled, "Nationals Park set for historic debut", that, "'Pitching any Opening Day is special for anybody,'" but, Mr. Hudson continues:

"'Being in the nation's capital with a new stadium, there's a lot of excitement there...You can always say you're the first team to play there and I can say I was one of the first pitchers to throw some pitches in the stadium.'"

Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox, Thee Most Tossed Manager in Baseball History, is his usual serious-minded self about opening a new park in the same article, prompting MLB.com's Tom Singer to write that:

"Atlanta manager Bobby Cox is a little leery about playing for keeps in a place his men will not have seen until a few hours before the opening pitch. The Braves do plan to begin batting practice on Sunday 45 minutes earlier than usual -- just to get a little feel of the place."

And Mr. Singer then quotes Mr. Cox, who thinks his Braves will be able to cope:

"'It will be rough,' Cox said, 'but it's just something you have to deal with. It will still be fun to be in that setting.'"

The Nationals got their first chance to try out Nationals Park today, according to an article by AP Sports Writer Joe White at yahoosports.com, who writes in an article entitled, "Hitter's or pitcher's park? Nationals hold 1st practice at new stadium", that:

"The players agreed unanimously on one thing: No matter how it plays, Nationals Park will be a better park, as in better than RFK Stadium."

Mr. White's article includes a quote from Nationals' GM Jim Bowden, who assures Nationals fans that there's one thing Nationals Park won't be:

"'It’s not going to be a bandbox,' general manager Jim Bowden said. 'It’s not going to be a hitter’s park like Philadelphia or Cincinnati. It’s not going to be a pitcher’s park like RFK. I think it’s going to be a balanced park that leans toward the pitchers. I don’t think any of us are going to know for sure until we actually play ball there.'”

Sunday Night. 8:05 PM. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball's Season Premiere. The MLB 2008 Domestic Season Opener. It's Opening Night In Nationals Park...

Top 5 Things To Yell At Atlanta Tomorrow:

1) "LARRY!!!" (In memory of the Montreal fan who paced behind home plate yelling this at Chipper every (EVERY!) time Jones stepped to the plate.

2) "TOSS COX OUT!" (though probably not a good idea if children are nearby.)

3) "Where's Andruw?" (Though return taunts about Vladimir Guerrero might hurt Expos' fans.)

4) "Smoltz? Glavine? What Greg Maddux and Steve Avery weren't available?"

5) "Go-O-ho-O-me! Go-O-ho-O-me!!" (Instead of that horrid "Tomahawk-chop" chant.)