A complete lackage of lefty relievers and a trio of home runs from the Nationals sunk the Marlins in game one of the four-game weekend series at Nationals Park. While it was tough to see the Marlins go down in such a way, I had a great evening for my first game of 2016 in D.C.
Joe and I hung out at the Red Porch for the entirety of batting practice, free from most of the chorus of children realizing for the first time they can get free baseballs by yelling at players.
Joe pointed this out later on, but the amount of dropped toss-ups was absolutely bewildering. Two of the balls I picked up Friday were just mishandled by other people, so I gave them back.
I ended up giving away two more that were home runs I didn’t catch. The second of which, from Ryan Zimmerman, was an absolute tater that ended up back in the Red Porch restaurant. I wasn’t thinking on my toes when a little twerp came up and expected me to give it to him. I did because I’m a lightweight pushover. But I shouldn’t have respected his ingratitude and either kept it for myself or given it to someone else.
I did successfully catch three home runs during Marlins BP, though, so that’s what made this whole thing worthwhile. The first was from Adeiny Hechavarria, I believe. It was a simply fly ball near the center field end that made me lean over a row.
I had never caught a Giancarlo Stanton homer on the fly before, so I was really antsy to get one. Unfortunately, BP for him is not just a dinger derby. He methodically works to the opposite field before he unleashes the beast, significantly reducing the number of home runs he actually hits from the number he potentially could.
Nevertheless, he hit a blistering line drive that may have been the fastest ball I’ve ever seen hit, I wouldn’t know. Before I could really even get my bearings it smacked a seat across the aisle from me and plopped down. I picked that one up, but I was a tad salty since I could have caught it had I been more on my toes. Luckily, he came through again with a high drive to the center field end. I scampered across a row and a half to make a drifting catch. I figured as a Marlins fan it’s more or less a rite of passage to catch a Stanton dinger. Now six years into his career I was glad I had finally done just that.
He hit another homer during BP that ended up a good three rows back into the restaurant—probably a 450-footer. So the next time he got up, I figured I’d play back. The steps up to the restaurant are much too steep to conquer while tracking a home run, so if one lands up there, it’s probably going uncaught by anyone down below. So I played in the aisle behind the first set of tables and much to my delight, he launched one to that exact latitude. It was a majestic behemoth that smacked right in my pocket.
I feel very unathletic while tracking and catching home runs during BP. For one thing, I bruise my thighs while running through the seats just because I inadvertently hit so many of them. Also, since you can’t exactly circle around a ball and catch it while moving forward, I end up just drifting and more often than not leaning while I catch it. It ends up being a sprawling activity that puts the former outfielder inside of me to shame.
So I think I “snagged” eight balls during BP. All I can really tell you for sure is that I caught three, and kept one other that I picked up.
Joe cleaned up as well, since he’s still at an acceptable toss-up age. He ended up with four as far as I know.
And we met this kid and his father who had half-season tickets at the Red Porch. This kid, lemme tell ya, was a master at the art of being a child at a baseball game. He must have snagged a dozen—all toss ups I think—from pretty much every player who ended up catching a ball in center field throughout the course of BP’s two hours. We also saw him get a warm-up ball from Ben Revere during the game. It was ludicrous. A smart kid who is young and cute enough could probably make Zack Hample look like an amateur.
As for the game itself, we sat in the left field corner, section 108. Nothing really came our way during the game.
I was delighted to see the Nationals were wearing their navy blue stars and stripes jerseys–the first time I’d seen them in person.
After a brisk first four innings, Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez ran into some trouble in the fifth when two Daniel Murphy errors allowed the Marlins to score two runs.
In the top of the sixth, three straight singles loaded the bases for the Marlins with no outs. Here come some runs! Except not.
Manager Dusty Baker removed Gonzalez from the game and inserted Yusmeiro Petit, traditionally a long or middle reliever. Petit struck out Adeiny Hechavarria and was then replaced by lefty Oliver Perez. This was the first of Baker’s impeccable managerial decisions.
Perez came in and induced a double play from the hot-hitting lefty Derek Dietrich. The Fish were left with a goose egg for an inning they started with three consecutive hits.
In the bottom of the sixth, Marlins starter Tom Koehler exited the game with two outs after surrendering a single to Jose Lobaton. The Nationals were still scoreless at the time. But Stephen Drew pinch hit for Perez and lifted a two-run homer to right field off reliever Bryan Morris, tying the game.
Blake Treinen entered the game to pitch for Washington and kept the Marlins scoreless in the seventh.
After a walk to Anthony Rendon in the bottom of the inning, Bryce Harper launched a two-run shot to right field. I was texting Paul during the game and he mentioned that he doesn’t think he’d seen a Harper homer in person. And I don’t know if I had either until Friday.
Giancarlo Stanton just missed a solo home run leading off the eighth, but settled for a double off the right field wall. He later scored on a ground out by Chris Johnson.
Baker got another pinch hit home run from Chris Heisey in the bottom of the eighth, the fifth and final run for the Nationals.
Jonathan Paplebon sealed the deal with his tenth save of the season, and the Nats took home the curly W.