Call it a warning. Call it a Disclaimer. Call it whatever you like, but when the “Here Come the Blooms” signs come down at Nationals Park, they should be replaced with “What You See is What You Get.”
Aside from Juan Soto’s 99th career homer, there were not many blooms in the Nationals’ 5-1 Opening Night loss to the New York Mets. But Nationals fans who braved a pre-game rain delay saw and got a performance typical of what they should expect from the Washington Nationals this season.
But it could have been a lot worse.
First of all, there was general defensive competence and actual inspired play. In the fourth inning, Alcides Escobar recorded what will surely be the first of his All-Star highlight reel plays, taking a relay from Victor Robles and throwing out Pete Alonso, who looked like he pulled something chugging around third.
Escobar also singled. As soon as his #AllStar campaign is finished, we’ll start the drive to get him elected to the Hall of Fine.
“He made some unbelievable plays today,” Martinez told reporters afterward. “He’s an old, young guy. You can see what kind of player he is.”
Escobar, 35, is in his 11th season in the majors and returned last season after playing in Japan in 2019 and sitting out the COVID-shortened 2020 season without a contract.
As for Robles, he picked up an outfield assist on his first chance of the season on maybe the best cutoff throw of his young career. It came two innings after Robles, batting ninth, dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt to get Escobar to second base.
Catcher Kiebert Ruiz had had the most impressive all-around game of the night, 2-for-4 with a double and hard contact every time, and a perfect throw in the first inning to cut down Starling Marte trying to steal second.
“He threw Marte out in the first inning which is tough to do, and he blocked some balls today, Martinez said.
Oh, and Soto hit a mighty pretty home run into the right field upper deck.
But a few good things are not enough to win a major league ballgame, especially behind a pitching staff that gave up a dozen hits, including seven by the bullpen.
Starter Patrick Corbin was effective until he wasn’t, falling apart in the fifth inning after Robinson Cano bunted against the shift on a first-pitch fastball.
Out of the stretch, the left-hander allowed the next three batters to reach, including hitting Brian McCann to force in a run, and he was done.
The bullpen, especially Austin Voth and Andres Machado, was rusty, combining to allow 3 runs on 7 hits with 5 strikeouts and two walks. The only clean inning from the pen came from Víctor Arano, escaping Corbin’s fifth-inning jam on five pitches.
New slugger Nelson Cruz was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and the team struck out 13 times total, including three each from Maikel Franco and Lane Thomas.
New leadoff man Cèsar Hernàndez was on base only once, in the fourth, but Soto struck out and Cruz hit into a force to end the inning.
A few good things and a few bad things, adding up to the first loss of 2022.
The Nats are exactly who they look like in 2022, a team that might be better than we thought defensively, but still looking for direction and focus, and still trying to shake off the rust from the 99-day lockout and shortened Spring Training.