Maybe lost amid the disappointment of the home-opening loss and rain drops (and hail stones) and double rainbows was the short, but impressive, stint by late reliever Shawn Kelley. The veteran had a rough go of it on opening day, throwing four straight balls to walk his only batter, but on Thursday, he was much, much better.
Kelley came on for Ollie Perez -- who was pretty good in his own right -- in the top of the eighth with two outs, a man on first, and oh, some guy named Giancarlo Stanton coming to bat.
Stanton was 2 for 4 on the night, but that didn't really tell the story. The "living legend" twice came up with RISP and fewer than two outs and failed graciously to knock in any runs. But here, in the eighth, he could have all but ended the game with a big blow.
All Kelley did was strike the slugger out...on four pitches -- all strikes. He started with an 89-mph four seam fastball that Stanton swung through, then he gave him three consecutive sliders, as he is wont to do. Stanton fouled off the first two, but couldn't make contact with the third, ending any threat.
Then in the ninth, Kelley came back out to mow down Martin Prado, Miguel Rojas and J.T. Realmuto in short order, keeping the Nats deficit to two runs, giving them a puncher's chance in the bottom of the ninth.
Kelley has struck out over 11 batters per nine innings the past three seasons, bringing his walks average down each of the past three years. He's got near-elite skills that, given his somewhat unusual three-year contract this offseason, should make him a candidate to close once Jonathan Papelbon walks, or is traded toward the trade deadline.
But that's down the road. For now, it was just good to see him have success against a pair of pretty tough right-handed hitters in Prado and Stanton on Thursday. A silver lining to the dark clouds that hung over Nats Park on the home opener.