The first pitch of the game was a Max Scherzer meatball that landed in the outfield seats for a Braves lead. The visitors ran the score to 4-0 on four solo home runs. The Nats’ roster on this Opening Day was depleted but certainly not defeated. With 10-players added to the injured list officially today, nine due to COVID, a team that had Hernan Perez playing second base, Andrew Stevenson in left field to face a lefty starter, and unemployed catcher Jonathan Lucroy signed off of his couch, all sprung into action and each contributed to this win.
“It was a good win, given all the circumstances,” Lucroy said. “I hadn’t seen live pitching in a week and some change.”
The Nats clawed back on a Nats’ debut 2-RBI double by Lucroy followed later by a Trea Turner 2-run home run. Remember, it was Turner who was not seen at the team practice on Monday and was presumed my many to be caught up in the COVID mess. Turner looked like his timing was off at times until he squared up that home run. The Braves took the lead in the 8th and Stevenson hung a blown save n the Braves’ bullpen to knot the score at 5-5. In the 9th inning against the Braves closer Will Smith, it started with a Victor Robles oppo single, followed by a Turner HBP, and then in a 3-0 count, Juan Soto ripped a single for the walk-off winner — the first walk-off of any kind in his young career.
“I did not,” manager Dave Martinez responded after the game to that being Soto’s first walk-off. “But it game at a timely moment. … He comes through for us quite a bit. I’m proud of the boys. They don’t quit.”
Remember, the last action that Turner, Soto, and Stevenson had seen was last month in Spring Training where respectively batted .170, .182, and .279. The Nats were missing the best qualified hitter in all of Spring Training, Josh Bell, who batted .383 with an unbelievable 1.328 OPS in 47 at-bats.
The Nats played smart baseball all game and as Martinez often said, “They stayed in the fight.” The team never gave up and played it to the 27th out. So many players contributed to this win. Pick your star? Stevenson was either 2-4 or 3-4 depending on how the official scorer looks at a ball ruled an error. Turner and Lucroy had 2 RBIs each, and Soto had the walk-off. Victor Robles and Ryan Zimmerman got on-base in key spots, and the Nats out-hit the Braves, 10-7, plus the Nats had 4 walks, a HBP, and a questionable scorer’s call for an error that gave the Nats a total of 16 baserunners.
“It was my first walk-off in the big leagues. It was just amazing,” Soto said. “I just sit on the fastball and be ready for it. I think this feeling is better than hitting a home run for me.”
Two of the biggest plays of the game were made by the Nats defense. One was in a Zimmerman scoop at first base on a bad throw by Hernan Perez with bases loaded, and the other was the perfect shift on Ozzie Albies with runners on second and third base, the Nats shifted Turner to the right-side of second base and a hard grounder was hit directly to him for a huge third out.
After the game, Soto was asked by MASN’s F.P. Santangelo about the walk-off single and swinging in a 3-0 count,“Was there any doubt about a 3-0 greenlight?” is the question that Santangelo asked.
“Oh hell no, I’m swinging the hole time,” Soto said.
Swing, Soto did and laced the winner to outfield that was reminiscent of the Wild Card game winning single by Soto in 2019.
— MLB (@MLB) April 6, 2021
The Nats crowd was limited to 5,000 fans by the D.C. Government, and the upper deck was closed. The players made the observation, and Max Scherzer did not let a chance go to discuss that there should be more fans allowed in the ballpark.
“I’m also confused here. I don’t understand why there weren’t fans here in the upper deck here. I don’t understand why we can’t have more fans here … I understand that we need to be safe. I respect the virus … I would love an explanation. That’s all I’ll say.” — Max Scherzer