Nationals lose home opener

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON—There was all sorts of sunny talk before the Washington Nationals’ home opener.
And why not?
Washington had allowed only four runs over 19 innings while winning its first two games on the road.
General manager Mike Rizzo spoke about optimism.
Bryce Harper, who collected his NL MVP and Silver Slugger awards, and a key to the city during pre-game festivities, spoke about “the passion, the fire we have as a team.”
Then the game began—and everything quickly became rather dreary for the locals, in the sky and on the field, during a rain-interrupted 6-4 loss to the Miami Marlins, whose new manager, Don Mattingly, picked up his first win with the club.
The Nationals were outhit 13-6. They left 11 runners on base.
They went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position—the lone bright spot a bases-loaded triple by free-agent addition Daniel Murphy in the first inning, which only managed to tie the game at 3-3.
And they made an error that led to an unearned, go-ahead run.
“Just be patient because that’s what I’m forced to do,” Dusty Baker said after his first loss as Washington’s skipper.
With one out in the fifth inning of a 5-3 game, there came a key moment: Washington’s cleanup hitter, Ryan Zimmerman, was coming to the plate as the potential go-ahead run with two men on base.
Mattingly headed out to the mound and Miami reliever David Phelps held the baseball behind his back.
“I didn’t want to give it to him,” Phelps said afterward.
Didn’t need to, it turned out. Mattingly let him stay in—and Phelps rewarded that trust by getting Zimmerman to fly out, then Jayson Werth to ground out, wrapping up four shutout innings following a one-hour, 25-minute rain delay.
The righty also delivered his first career RBI at the plate.
“It’s nice,” Phelps said of Mattingly’s decision. “He gives you a chance.”
Mattingly’s explanation?
“We knew we were at the end of [Phelps’] rope. It was still a right-handed situation but if he was out of gas, he was out of gas,” said Mattingly, the former N.Y. Yankees’ first baseman who managed the L.A. Dodgers until this season.
“But he had a really good look in his eye.
“And I asked, ‘Can you get this guy?’ He was like, ‘I got him. I’m good,’” said Mattingly.
While Phelps (1-0) replaced Adam Conley after a thunderstorm in the second with the score tied at three, Nationals’ starter Tanner Roark (0-1) surprisingly remained in the game.
Roark allowed four runs—three earned—and nine hits in four innings.
“We were getting pretty close to when it was going to be too long” for Roark to come back out, Baker noted.
Roark stayed loose by throwing every 15 minutes or so in the indoor batting cages.
“I wasn’t labouring or wasn’t tired or anything like that,” Roark said.
“I felt like my pitches were a lot better after I came out after the rain delay.”
Harper hit his second homer of 2016—a no-doubt-about-it solo shot off Bryan Morris in the seventh.
Before that swing, Washington trailed by three and fans had long since started departing.
Harper flied out to deep centre to open the ninth against A.J. Ramos, who worked around a walk for his first save, striking out Murphy looking to end it.
Of his long ball that came up just short in the ninth, Harper said: “I thought it was 10 rows deep, to tell you the truth.
“Maybe in June or July, that’s possible.
“But it’s still an out. Didn’t hit it well enough, I guess,” he added.
Elsewhere in the NL, Cincinnati beat Philadelphia 10-6, San Francisco doubled L.A. 12-6, and Chicago dumped Arizona 14-6.