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Washington Nationals news & notes: Opening Day in D.C.; Nats drop opener, 7-2 to Atlanta Braves...

Sure, the Nationals lost the season opener, but it was always about the friends we made along the way.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Play Ball:

Patrick Corbin dropped a first-pitch slider in on Ronald Acuña, Jr., then he dropped another one on the Atlanta Braves’ outfielder, 0-2, but the 2023 campaign officially started with an opposite field, line drive single to right field in Nationals Park, in yesterday’s season opener.

Four pitches later, Acuña, Jr. stole second base on a 2-2 sinker from Corbin, and after a one-out walk put two runners on base, Acuña, Jr. took third on a fly ball to right field by Ozzie Albies, before both of the runners were stranded when Corbin got the Braves’ catcher, Sean Murphy, swinging over a diving 0-2 slider low and in for out No. 3 and the lefty’s first K of the 2023 season.

Baseball is back!


The total attendance for the 2023 season opener drew an announced crowd of 35,756 in Nationals Park, which is not a sell-out.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The home opener last year, against the Braves, on April 11th, had 42,263 fans turn out.

And the Braves Take The Lead:

With two on and one out in the second, and the Braves up 1-0 on the strength of an RBI hit by Orlando Arcia, on the third consecutive one-out single off Corbin, Nationals’ shortstop CJ Abrams booted a potential double play grounder, misplaying the ball off Acuña’s bat to load them up for Matt Olson, who K’d chasing a 1-2 fastball up and away, before a two-out bases-loaded walk to Austin Riley (on Corbin’s 56th pitch of the game) made it 2-0 Atlanta.

The visitors went up 3-0 on a dribbler to the left side by Ozzie Albies.

Davey Martinez on the 1st of CJ Abrams’ three errors in the season opener, fielders having trouble with sun/sky on clear, cold day in D.C.:

“I talked to CJ after the double play should have happened. Look, I’m going to be honest with you, they had a tough time seeing the ball as well. He didn’t see the ball off the bat.

“But I told him, ‘Hey, we play day games here. Those are plays that we need to make.’”

Points ... Errr, Runs!!!:

Dominic Smith’s first hit with the Nationals was a towering ... pop to short, where the Braves’ infielder Orlando Arcia lost it in the sun, and let it drop in for a hit, and Smith moved to third base on a double to left (via third base) by Keibert Ruiz. Smith scored on a sac fly to short-center by Alex Call, scoring when the throw in bounced off the right side of the mound, 3-1 Atlanta after two innings.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals

Corbin’s 25-pitch third inning left him at a total of 84 pitches, and a leadoff double to right by Matt Olson in the top of the fourth ended the starter’s Opening Day outing.

Patrick Corbin’s Line: 3.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 85 P, 48 S, 5/2 GO/FO.

Corbin threw 43 sinkers among his 85 total pitches (51%), mixed in 30 (35%) sliders, and he threw eight four-seamers (9%), and four changeups (5%), generating two swinging and six called strikes with his sinker, and six swinging and three called strikes with the slider overall.

Martinez on Corbin vs ATL:

How did the Nats’ skipper assess Patrick Corbin’s first outing of the 2023 campaign, coming off the third straight season in which the southpaw struggled on the mound last year?

“He’s got to pound the strike zone,” Martinez told reporters. “We talked about that, he did a good job of that in spring. He fell behind [today]. He had a lot of pitches in three innings, so, but he’s 3-2, 3-2, unfortunate breaks with some of the hits they got early, but still and all he’s got to attack the strike zone.”

What was the difference between what Corbin did this spring and what he did in the 2023 opener?

“He just fell behind. He just fell behind,” Martinez said.

“When he’s ahead, he’s a much different guy. So we’ve got to get him ahead and get him to finish. We talk a lot about 3-4 pitches or less, that’s who he is.”

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Rest of the Game:

Matt Olson scored on a double play grounder after Erasmo Ramírez took over on the mound for the Nationals in the fourth, 4-1 Braves after three and a half.

Braves’ starter Max Fried left the game in the bottom of the fourth inning, when he tweaked his leg (hamstring) while covering first base on a groundout.

Joey Meneses connected for a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the 5th, driving in the only other run the home team scored in what ended up a 7-2 loss.

Meneses went 2 for 5 with the one RBI in the first game of the season, which comes after a strong showing in the WBC, and his breakout run with the Nationals once he was called up from Triple-A Rochester in the immediate aftermath of the Juan Soto trade with the Padres last August.

Atlanta Braves v. Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Braves added three runs in the ninth, with Kyle Finnegan on the mound for the home team. Finnegan walked two, and gave up a line drive, two-run double by Travis d’Arnaud, who scored on Abrams’ third error of the game, a throwing error on a fly to right field.

Abrams cut off a throw in by Lane Thomas, before throwing one right by third, allowing the final run of the game to score, 7-2 Braves.

“We walked some guys, which uncharacteristic, all spring we didn’t do, we attacked the zone,” Martinez said in summing up the loss after the opener.”

“And then we didn’t hit with runners in scoring position,” the manager continued after his club went 1 for 11 with nine left on base in what was a two-run game into the ninth.

“We had some opportunities. We couldn’t get the job done there,” Martinez added.

“So, you know, it’s Day 1, we got the day off tomorrow, we’ll come back Saturday and do it again.”

PREGAME - Strasdate, UpStras, Upburg, Strasburg Update:

Stephen Strasburg, who was shut down early this spring when he had a setback in his rehab from Thoracic Outlet surgery, decided against joining in the Opening Day festivities in D.C.

GM Mike Rizzo told reporters Washington’s 2009 No. 1 overall pick and 2019 World Series MVP didn’t want to be a distraction for fans and teammates alike as the Nationals and the Atlanta Braves kicked off the 2023 campaign in the nation’s capital.

Strasburg was actually placed on the 60-Day IL before the season opener, as part of roster machinations in advance of the first of 162 games this season.

“He’s not going to be here today,” Rizzo explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“He felt he didn’t want to distract from the Opening Day festivities. He’s just taking it day by day and trying to just get healthy.”

Strasburg is going through the rehab process right now, Rizzo said, with said process at this stage mostly focused on, “just simple rest until he regains strength and mobility.”

“He needs to rehab the injury,” Rizzo said. “If nothing more, just to play with his children, get back to regular life. He’s going to rehab the injury, and he’s going to take this day by day.”

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