WASHINGTON (AP) The ”1” written in blue ballpoint pen on the baseball protected by a plastic box in Adam Lind’s locker represented his first homer of the season – on his first swing as a member of the Washington Nationals, no less.
The ”1” on the matching memento in Blake Treinen’s possession stood for his first save of 2017 – on his first opportunity as a big league closer, anointed as such by Nationals manager Dusty Baker after earning the job in spring training.
Opening day is always about fresh starts – every team starts with the same record, every player with the same stats – and Washington’s 4-2 victory over the Miami Marlins on Monday hinged on elements that have changed for the Nationals: a two-run, go-ahead, pinch-hit homer from new bench player Lind; a 1-2-3 ninth from familiar face but new closer Treinen; a double, two walks, a steal and a run from new center fielder Adam Eaton; a single and a run at the plate, plus steering of the pitchers from behind it, by new catcher Matt Wieters.
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Lind turned on a 2-0 fastball from reliever David Phelps (0-1) in the seventh, then was coaxed out of the dugout for a curtain call by the loud sellout crowd of 42,744 on a cloudy afternoon.
”It’s the first one I’ve ever had,” the 33-year-old Lind said of the special treatment from spectators. ”It couldn’t have happened at a better time.”
He’s such a recent arrival, only signing a free-agent deal after players already were gathering for spring training, that Baker is still trying to master Lind’s name.
”That was a big, big hit by Jeremy,” Baker said initially, before catching himself. ”I keep calling him Jeremy, thinking basketball,” – a reference to NBA player Jeremy Lin.
There were, to be sure, also bits of same-old, same-old for the reigning NL East champions: a get-’em-on-the-scoreboard solo shot by Bryce Harper, who has gone deep on opening day five times in his career; a seven-inning, two-run performance from Stephen Strasburg (1-0) in his fourth opening-day start but first thrown entirely from the stretch.
Returning after missing last September and the playoffs with a right elbow injury, Strasburg benefited from some defensive help. A catch in right by Harper, who leaped into the wall, then tumbled onto his backside on the warning track but said afterward he was fine. A diving stop by Trea Turner, the NL Rookie of the Year runner-up last season while learning to play center field but now at his natural position of shortstop.
Another way in which this Washington club is new as it embarks on its quest to finally win a postseason series.
”Good teams have depth, have a bunch of different guys that can do (a) bunch of different things,” first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. ”That’s what makes those teams so hard to beat, because for nine innings, you have to worry about a lot of people.”
SAVING THE DAY
Treinen took on Miami’s 4-5-6 hitters, getting Giancarlo Stanton to pop out in foul territory, then striking out Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna.
”I had a little bit more emotion today than typical,” said Treinen, who owned one career save before Monday.
Phelps, a righty, faced lefty batters Harper and Lind because the Marlins have zero left-handed relievers.
”Obviously, you’d like to be set up where you had a couple of them, honestly,” manager Don Mattingly said.
Nationals: 3B Anthony Rendon sat after fouling a ball off his calf during spring training.
After an off day, Washington RHP Tanner Roark faces Miami newcomer Dan Straily on Wednesday.
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