We won our first game of the season for the first time since 2005 B.C.. Truth be told, it felt like a lot longer.
Conclusions can hardly be drawn one game into the season. Right now, Placido Polanco is on pace for 972 RBI, and the Nats pitching staff is on pace to walk 1,458 batters. Okay, that last one might actually happen. After today’s game, we know the following pieces of information: The Phillies’ lineup is really good, the Natinals (this is the proper spelling) kind of suck, and Roy Halladay is a finely calibrated pitching machine from a galaxy far, far away. None of this comes as a surprise to anyone. But we did see some very encouraging signs, as well as a few things to be worried about.
Other than his boneheaded attempt to score from second on an error in the first inning, Jimmy Rollins had a great game, with a triple, a stolen base, and two walks (!). We made it back to the World Series last year mostly in spite of Rollins. If Charlie’s going to continue to pencil him into the leadoff spot – and he will – we need to see this kind of plate approach from JRoll more often. He’s never going to be an elite, or even good, leadoff man, but a little discretion will at least keep him from being a liability atop the order.
Speaking of plate discipline, you know you’re a baseball nerd when the fact that the team walked nine times excites you more than a grand slam. Even more impressive is the fact that they managed that total without a walk from the most patient hitter in baseball, Jayson Werth. Utley and Chooch each worked three free passes, and Raul Ibanez had one as well. Yeah, the Nats’ staff showed awful command for most of the game, but taking a walk is taking a walk. I can’t wait until we face LOLiver Perez again.
Every player in the starting lineup had a hit, including Doc, who drove in a run with a swinging bunt single. No question that the big star at the plate was Placido Polanco, who channeled the mystical powers of his gigantic head into a three-hit afternoon, including a completely unnecessary grand slam.
Of course, anything after the five-run fourth was unnecessary offense, with Halladay on the mound. In his Phillies debut, Harry Leroy Halladay went seven innings, allowing just one run in the first inning, while striking out nine. He only needed 88 pitches, and he didn’t even have his best stuff. Here are the results for the batters following each of the eight hitters who dared to reach base: strikeout, strikeout, lineout, strikeout, strikeout, double play, single, strikeout. The only time he surrendered back-to-back hits was in the seventh inning, a couple of harmless singles, bookended by two strikeouts and a weak grounder to first.
Baseball has no mercy rule, but Charlie’s removal of Halladay might as well have functioned as one. The Nats managed to string together a couple baserunners in the final two innings, but Antonio Bastardo, Danys Baez, and David Herndon managed to work around them without allowing a run. Herndon did a particularly nice job of that, punching up a strikeout with runners on second and third and only one out.
Hard to come up with much for this category when you win by 10 runs, but if pick nits I must, then pick nits I shall. Bastardo, as the only lefty in the ‘pen until J.C. Romero is healthy, needs to do a better job than he did today. He came in and immediately gave up a double to Nyjer Morgan, allowed a sac fly to Willie Harris, then bounced back with a strikeout of Ryan Zimmerman before walking Adam Dunn. Besides Zim, all those guys are lefty bats. Three batters is a laughably small sample size, but when your main role in the bullpen is to come in and get lefties out, that ain’t gonna cut it.
Herndon fared a bit better, but I’ve heard some people suggest that he might be worth a look late in games if Madson struggles and Lidge is slow to get back. Nothing we’ve seen so far supports that. Kid’s got a nice sinker, but his secondary offerings are pretty much slop. He’s basically Kyle Kendrick with a reliever’s endurance. A useful piece, certainly, but if he’s seeing a lot of high-leverage situations, that probably means we’re in some serious hot water. So yeah, today didn’t do much in the way of dispelling concerns over the bullpen.
Also, despite a hit and a walk in his five plate appearances, Raul still looked pretty lost at the plate. Coming off a serious injury and on the heels of an awful spring training, it’s a situation that bears watching. Worst case scenario, Francisco starts taking time away from him, which really isn’t a bad thing at all.
President Obama threw out the first pitch before the game. This created what can be delicately referred to as a “clusterfuck” outside the stadium, with many people getting to their seats late due to security screenings. Not that they missed anything special, as Obama’s offering sailed high and wide to the left. Just like his policies! Hey-ooooo! (Now you know why I don’t do political humor. Seriously though, need a student loan bailout. Like, yesterday. Kthxbai.) Unfortunately for the Nats, their pitchers did about as good a job of finding the strike zone as Obama did.
In his defense, Obama did try throwing off the mound, which is more than most people do, and a hell of a lot harder than throwing off flat ground. Besides, who cares? It’s not as if the quality of his pitching determines the quality of his job performance. About the only good thing people remember about ol’ Dubya at this point is his perfect strike at Yankee Stadium after 9/11, which was followed by seven-plus years of serving up bombs. Ba-dum kssshhh! I’ll be here all week. (I’m so sorry.)
Hey, at least they got the spelling right on his personalized jacket.