We all knew it was going to take more than one run for the Washington Nationals to win their first game of 2022, didn’t we?
The Nationals got it from a player in his major league debut, and another big hit from their first full-time designated hitter for their initial victory of 2022, beating the New York Mets 4-2 on a day of firsts at Nationals Park.
Nelson Cruz fulfilled his role as DH by designating a 1-0 sinker for the Mets’ bullpen for his first homer of 2022, jolting the crowd of 23,158 off its feet in the bottom of the first inning.
The 450th home run for Nelson Cruz.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 10, 2022
He passes Vladimir Guerrero and Jeff Bagwell on @MLB's all-time HR list.#BloomDay // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/xEUpk0Y0kY
In the bottom of the eighth, in his first at-bat of the season with a game on the line, Cruz designated a bases-loaded, 2-2 four-seamer through the hole near second for his first multi-hit game of 2022. The hit drove in Lucius Fox and César Hernández to break a 2-2 tie.
Cruz came through with the bases loaded, in his first chance this season and the team’s second (Juan Soto grounded out in the previous at-bat).
You might recall that in 2021, when the Nationals had the highest overall batting average in the National League, .258, they were a worst-in-baseball .188 (33-for-167) when hitting with the bases loaded.
The season’s first clutch hit came three batters after the rookie Fox drove in first his career run on the Nats’ first safety squeeze of 2022. In his third big league plate appearance, the 24-year-old shortstop from Nassau, Bahamas, dropped a 1-0 pitch right down the first base line. Pete Alonso fired home, too late to get Dee Strange-Gordon streaking home from third.
“I was trying to hit a home run for the fans,” a jubilant Fox joked in an otherwise modest MASN post-game interview.
Strange-Gordon pinch ran for Yadiel Hernández, who had singled to lead off the Nats’ eight, advanced to third on the first base hit of the season from Maikel Franco, who had gone 0 for 12.
Fox’s successful bunt came after Victor Robles failed to get one down with nobody out.
Fox’s first career fielding highlight came in the second, when he ranged to his left for a diving stop and threw form his knees to retire Pete Alonso.
After Cruz’s go-ahead hit came the Nationals’ first save situation of 2022, which Tanner Rainey converted on 11 pitches, nine strikes.
Rainey allowed only a lead-off single to Mark Canha before fly balls to Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, and Brandon Nimmo ended it.
The Nats’ first winning pitcher of 2022 was Kyle Finnegan, who preceded Rainey with a 1-2-3 eighth. Finnegan took a 106-mph line drive off the bat of Pete Alonso to his right hip/quad, but recovered to retire him with a toss to first base, then got Eduardo Escobar on just two pitches before striking out Dominic Smith on four.
Erick Fedde became the first Nats’ starter to complete five innings this season, returning for a scoreless fifth after surrendering a 1-0 lead in the fourth on a homer by Francisco Lindor and an RBI single by Canha.
Overall, Fedde gave up the two runs on five hits and two walks, striking out five.
For catcher Kiebert Ruiz, an 0-for-3 Sunday against marked his first game in which he did not have a hit this season.
Through his second at-bat Sunday, Ruiz was the only National who hadn't struck out in 2022.
Mets’ starter Carlos Carrasco K’d him to end the fifth, ending a streak of 40 consecutive at-bats without a strikeout, dating back to last season.
Who’s in your pool to commit the first Nats’ error of 2022?
That’s a first that did not come in the four-game set, although there were a couple misplays.
The Nats finished the weekend as one of six teams to play error-free baseball so far this season.
This year’s first victory came in the Nats’ fourth game, which is the latest claimed their first since the 103-loss 2009 campaign, when they dropped their first seven.