Max Scherzer struck out 10 of the 24 Cincinnati Reds’ batters he faced in his 2018 debut, and handed a 1-0 lead to the Washington Nationals’ bullpen after six innings of work this afternoon in the season opener in Cincinnati, Ohio’s Great American Ball Park.
Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle followed Scherzer on the mound with a scoreless inning each as the Nats’ took the season opener from the Reds.
Adam Eaton singled off Homer Bailey in the first and eventually scored the only run the Nationals needed to take the first game of 2018, though Michael A. Taylor added some insurance in the ninth, 2-0.
Final Score: 2-0 Nationals
Nationals now 1-0
Opening Day Scherzer: Washington Nationals’ skipper Dave Martinez joked that he made the decision on his Opening Day starter as soon as he was hired as the Nats’ manager. It wasn’t a tough choice to go with Max Scherzer, he told reporters.
“It was pretty easy,” Martinez explained, “but we’ve got some pretty good starting pitchers though, so I’m excited about not only Max, but all these guys getting a chance to pitch.”
In the now-33-year-old right-hander’s last two starts against the Reds before today, he had 10 Ks in each, with just one earned run allowed in 14 innings (0.64 ERA). Coming off an NL Cy Young-worth 2017 campaign in which he went (16-6) in 32 starts, posting a 2.51 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 55 walks (2.47 BB/9), 268 Ks (12.02 K/9), and a .177/.247/.319 line against in 200 2⁄3 innings, Scherzer took the mound today in Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park and picked up where he left off last season.
Scherzer struck out eight of the first twelve batters he faced, including seven straight after Scooter Gennett doubled to start the Reds’ second, and he was up to 73 pitches and nine Ks after he worked around two-out singles by Gennett and Scott Schebler in the Cincinnati fourth to complete four scoreless with a 1-0 lead.
A 15-pitch fifth, in which he issued his first walk of the game, and stranded two batters, left Scherzer at 88 pitches overall, and he came back out for the sixth, working around another hit by Gennett (3 for 3) in a scoreless 12-pitch frame that left him at 100 pitches total.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 Ks, 100 P, 67 S, 3/3 GO/FO.
This is Max Scherzer's 65th career 10+ K game and his first of 2018.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 30, 2018
(Today is #OpeningDay).
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N-A-T-S Nats, Nats, Nats: Adam Eaton made an impact immediately in his first MLB game since late last April, when he blew out his knee running out a grounder in Nationals Park.
Eaton hit a broken-bat single to right field off Reds’ right-hander Homer Bailey, went first-to-third on a single to center by Bryce Harper, and scored on a potential double play grounder that the Cincy infield couldn’t turn into a double play, coming in from third base when Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a force at second in the at bat after Harper’s hit, 1-0.
Eaton walked in his second plate appearance of the game in the third, but K’d looking in the top of the fifth. 1 for 3, BB, K. Eaton left the game for a defensive replacement in the seventh after Brian Goodwin, who took over in the outfield, pinch hit for Scherzer.
Adam Eaton was back in the #Nats lineup for less than an inning and he's already...— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 30, 2018
Hit a leadoff single.
Gone first-to-third on a hit.
Scored a run. pic.twitter.com/Q4Qdk1JFPo
Harper’s Homers: Bryce Harper started the day 7-for-18 (.389) with five home runs, five RBIs, four walks, and five runs scored in five Opening Days in his six major league seasons.
Harper hit home runs in each of the past three season openers as well, and in four of five he’s played in thus far in his career.
With a fourth straight this afternoon, in Great American Ball Park, where he’d hit four home runs total in his career, the 25-year-old would be just the fourth player in MLB history to hit homers in four consecutive season openers, joining a short list that included just Yogi Berra (1955-58), Gary Carter (1977-80), and Todd Hundley (1994-97).
Harper singled in his first at bat, taking an 0-2 fastball up high from Homer Bailey back up the middle to put runners on first and third with one out and set the Nats up for their first run of the game. 1 for 1.
With a runner on and two out in the third, Harper hit another one back up the middle, and this one bounced off Bailey’s glove for an infield single, 2 for 2.
Harper worked the count full in his third plate appearance against Bailey in the top of the sixth, and walked, putting two runners on in front of Ryan Zimmerman with no outs after Anthony Rendon singled to start the frame.
Zimmerman K’d swinging through a 2-2 fastball from Bailey for the first out of the frame, and Howie Kendrick K’d swinging for out No. 2, but Trea Turner walked to load’em up in front of Michael A. Taylor, who sent a fly to left-center that Reds’ outfielder Jesse Winker managed to catch in spite of the fact that he collided with Billy Hamilton. Still 1-0 Nats.
Harper grounded out in an eighth-inning at bat, leaving him 2 for 3 with a walk in his 2018 debut.
Homer Bailey’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 104 P, 67 S, 4/8 GO/FO.
Homer rises to the occasion on #RedsOpeningDay. pic.twitter.com/BRpK3ZYPdm— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) March 30, 2018
Bullpen Time: Amir Garrett took over for the Reds in the seventh, working around a leadoff walk to Matt Wieters for a scoreless frame.
Brandon Kintzler was first out of the bullpen for the Nationals, taking over on the mound for Scherzer in the bottom of the seventh, and retiring the Reds in order in a 10-pitch frame.
Ryan Madson came on in the eighth inning and gave up back-to-back, two-out singles by Joey Votto (1 for 4) and Scooter Gennett (4 for 4), but stranded both runners in a 19-pitch inning.
MAT: Michael A. Taylor bunted for a single, stole second, took third on a groundout, and scored on a sac fly to left by Brian Goodwin, 2-0 in the top of the ninth.
DOOOOOOO!!!: Sean Doolittle took the mound in the bottom of the ninth with a 2-0 lead and worked around a two-out walk to earn the save. Ballgame.
Nationals now 1-0