Max Scherzer was asked earlier this Spring if he considered the possibility that he could throw back-to-back no-hitters if he tossed one today, since the Washington Nationals' right-hander finished his first campaign in the nation's capital with a no-no in New York. Scherzer said that was not happening.
"I'm not throwing a no-hitter Opening Day," Scherzer told reporters upon arriving for the start of his second Spring Training with the Nationals. "I can't -- it's just not going to happen."
It didn't. In the first start of the second season of his 7-year/$210M contract with the Nationals, in front of a not-quite sold out Turner Field crowd, Scherzer gave up a solo home run in the first, ending any potential no-hit drama and a second solo homer in the fourth inning of what ended up being a seven-inning, 104-pitch start.
Bryce Harper picked up where he left off last season, taking a hanging 2-2 slider from Julio Tehera for a ride to right for his first home run of the season in his first at bat of 2016, giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the first.
Freddie Freeman entered today's game with a .338/.395/.515 career line, 25 doubles and nine home runs in 86 games and 344 plate appearances vs the Nationals.
He hit his 10th career home run against the Nationals in his first trip to the plate and his first career at bat against Max Scherzer, tying it up at 1-1 in the home-half of the first.
Daniel Murphy got hold of a 2-0 fastball from Teheran in the first at bat of the fourth and hit a bomb of a home run to center to put the Nationals ahead, 2-1.
A half-inning later, however, Scherzer left an 0-2 slider over the plate outside for Braves' third baseman Adonis Garcia, who yanked a solo shot out to left field to tie things up at 2-2.
It was still tied at 2-2 in the eighth when the Braves loaded the bases with a walk, single and HBP off Nats' lefty Felipe Rivero.
Dusty Baker brought Shawn Kelley on to face Adonis Garcia, but Kelley was wild and walked the Braves' third baseman on four pitches, forcing in the winning run. 3-2 Atlanta.
The Nationals loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, against Braves' closer Jason Grilli, and got a one-out sac fly to short center by Michael A. Taylor that allowed Jayson Werth to tag and score, tying it up at 3-3, when he knocked the ball loose sliding into home.
Ryan Zimmerman grounded into the shift in his one-out at bat in the tenth, but Braves' second baseman Gordon Beckham threw it away, allowing Zimmerman to take second and an opposite field RBI double by Daniel Murphy brought Zimmerman in, 4-3.
Jonathan Papelbon earned the save in the tenth, Blake Treinen got the win for his work in the ninth. 4-3 Nationals final.
Nationals now 1-0.
• Coming into today's game, Bryce Harper had hit three of the Washington Nationals' seven Opening Day home runs...
He hit his fourth in his first at bat of the game, sending a two-out solo shot to righf field in Turner Field for a 1-0 lead early. HR no.1 of 2016 for the defending NL MVP:
• The Nationals are determined, and designed to grind out at bats. They made Braves' starter Julio Teheran throw 30 pitches in the top of the first this afternoon. Teheran ended up throwing 102 pitches total in six innings.
• Ben Revere left the game after his second at bat of the season, replaced in center by Michael A. Taylor in the fourth. No immediate word on any issue. Will update later...
• Today's Nationals-themed Fun with Arbitrary End Points segment: Since 2005, when baseball returned to the nation's capital, the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves have played 202 games before today's, which they split, 101-101, though in recent years, the Nats have dominated the rivalry between the divisional rivals.
The Nationals are 21-9 against the Braves since June 21, 2014, and they were 14-5 against Atlanta last season, winning all ten games at home in Nationals Park.
• Dusty Baker started his 21st season as a manager today. The three-time Manager of the Year award winner started the season the 17th-winningest manager in baseball history, with the second-most wins among active major league managers, behind only the Giants' Bruce Bochy.
• This afternoon's outing was the second Opening Day start of Max Scherzer's career.
He started the season opener for the Nationals last season, going 7 ⅔ innings against the New York Mets over which he gave up four hits and three runs, all of them unearned, walking two and striking out eight.
• Before today, Braves were 23-27 in their season opening games since 1966 and 12-10 in openers played in Atlanta.
• Freddie Freeman entered the season-opening, two-game set with the Nationals with a .338/.395/.515 career line, 25 doubles and nine home runs in 86 games and 344 plate appearances vs the Nationals.
Dusty Baker talked recently about having to get to know some of the new names on the Braves' roster, but he noted that they were all familiar with Freeman.
"We know one guy over there, their first baseman [Freddie Freeman], he's been hard on us," Baker said.
"He's killed this team. So we've got to find a way to keep the other guys off the bases then pitch to him or pitch around him."
Freeman had never faced Max Scherzer before today, however. He went yard in their first matchup, tying it up at 1-1 in the bottom of the first inning with a solo blast on a 96 mph 2-2 heater.
• Max Scherzer gave up a leadoff walk to Nick Markakis in the seventh, but the Braves' outfielder tried to break up a double play in the next at bat and was called out for not sliding directly into the bag after he took Daniel Murphy out sliding wide of the base. 5-4-3 DP. How long will this rule last?
• Scherzer's Line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 2 HRs, 104 P, 72 S, 5/1 GO/FO.
• Braves' righty Arodys Vizcaino impressed with two Ks in a 16-pitch 8th inning, striking out Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy after a one-out walk to Bryce Harper.
• Felipe Rivero issued a one-out walk to Jeff Francoeur in the eighth and gave up a single to left by Ender Inciarte, but he popped up Erick Aybar for out no.2, bringing Freddie Freeman up. Freeman got up, 3-1, took a low strike two, then took a fastball off the left arm and took his base, loading them up.
Shawn Kelley came on to face Adonis Garcia with the bases loaded and two down and went 3-0 and walked on a ball in the dirt that got by Wilson Ramos. 3-2 Braves.
• Jason Grilli came on for the save opportunity and issued a four-pitch, leadoff walk to Jayson Werth. Wilson Ramos singled through the right side to put two on with no one out. Danny Espinosa fouled off two bunt attempts, but did get one down and it fell in for a hit that loaded the bases.
Stephen Drew K'd looking at a backdoor, 2-2 slider. Michael Taylor hit a sac fly to short center, and Jayson Werth tagged and scored when he knocked the ball loose sliding into Braves' backstop A.J. Pierzynski. 3-3.
• Ryan Zimmerman looked spry taking second on Gordon Beckham's throwing error on a grounder into the shift in the ninth and Daniel Murphy followed with an opposite field, RBI double to put the Nationals ahead. 4-3 final.
Nationals now 1-0