Bad timing started when the cast of the musical “Jersey Boys” gathered behind home plate to sing the National Anthem. Just a couple of words into The Star-Spangled Banner, two fighter jets soared past, drowning out the fellas impersonating a long ago crooning crew from the Garden State. When the trailing roar of the jets subsided, the words of the anthem made it out of speakers and into ears.
Opening day at Nationals Park was filled with subsequent fits and starts. Anticipated rain stalled the game, a mishmash of Miami Marlins pitchers slowed the Washington Nationals and a first loss of the season came via a division foe. A three-run Miami lead in the top of the first inning was carried to a Marlins win, concluding a disjointed day for the Nationals.
“Sometimes, there’s no explanation about what happened,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “You’re going to lose 50, win 50. What you do the other 62 games in the middle … Who knows? [Thursday] might have been one of those 50. Just seems like whatever they did was right, and whatever we did was wrong.”
Washington departed Atlanta with two wins, benefiting from uncontrolled throws to the plate that turned running gambles into successes and superior starting pitching. Thursday’s stretched-out home opener, a game that lasted a double-header worthy 4:57 because of a rain delay, featured no such successes.
The only post-introduction roars of the day were in the bottom of the first and seventh innings. The latter was caused by Bryce Harper’s first home run at his home park this season, a ringing fly ball that bounced off the first-deck facade in right field. Through three games, Harper appears similar to the man who was on base in perpetuity last season. He walked twice, scored twice and hit a home run on Thursday night. One of his two outs went about 390 feet to center field.
“I thought it was 10 rows deep, to tell you the truth,” Harper said. “Maybe in June or July, that’s possible.”
Little else went well. Less than an hour after the game started, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have you ever seen the rain” spilled out of speakers at Nationals Park. The answer was a resounding yes.
Little else went well. Less than an hour after the game started, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” spilled out of speakers at Nationals Park. The answer was a resounding yes. The Nationals’ home opener was stopped after an inning and a half with the score tied, 3-3.
Thursday was expected to be filled with rain, which is why Major League Baseball provided Friday as an off day for the Nationals and Marlins should they encounter bad weather during the scheduled opener.
Despite the open day, the Nationals started the game at 4:06 p.m., then stopped it at 4:49 p.m. The following delay lasted 1:25. A rainbow arced through the clouds in right field during the pause. Walkways were filled with fans desperate to be dry. The more creative of those found their way all the way into covered stairwells. Inside one, a woman worked a crossword puzzle as her plastic defenses dried.
“A long day, long day,” Ryan Zimmerman said.
Right-hander Tanner Roark started the game for the Nationals. It did not go well. He allowed three runs in the first inning. The Marlins hit five singles, four to center, to earn an early 3-0 lead. Roark returned to the mound following the delay, an unconventional move from gut-based decision-making of Baker. Miami changed pitchers following the stoppage.
Baker explained that the length of the delay almost ended Roark’s day, but he talked with him, asked him to be honest and noted that there was no need for heroism in the third game of the season. Roark said he was all right to return to the mound. After consulting with pitching coach Mike Maddux, Baker sent Roark back to the mound.
The first inning was a microcosm of what’s expected from new second baseman Daniel Murphy. He was unable to make a defensive play up the middle when a liner hit off the top of his glove. The play wasn’t easy, but was also something likely resolved by a more skilled defender. It was a ruled a hit, not an error.
When he was up in the bottom of the inning, the left-handed Murphy hit a fly ball off the right field wall to drive in three runs. He slid head-first into third, an instant crowd favorite one at-bat into his time at home.
Just after 6 p.m., the sun had arrived again. Fans returned to their seats. Roark returned to the mound.
This was the role he wanted all last year when marooned in the bullpen. Roark won 15 games as a starter in 2014. His ERA was 2.85. Among the things that Baker has been adjusting to since becoming the Nationals’ manager was the concept that a 15-game winner would be moved to the bullpen the following year. He has seemed perplexed by the concept each time Roark is mentioned.
Roark’s pitching line was the oddity on Thursday. He allowed nine hits, walked three and gave up three earned runs in just four innings.
“A lot of hits,” Roark said. “Granted, a hit’s a hit, but I feel like I was making my pitches and they were just finding holes.”
The day closed with anger in front of a thinned crowd after 9 p.m. when Murphy was called out on strikes. He disagreed with the final call, reacted with fervor, but had no one to hear him out. The umpires walked away. A disjointed opener was over, allowing everyone to go home.
• Todd Dybas can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.