Nationals-Marlins instant analysis

Nationals-Marlins instant analysis
April 4, 2013, 6:45 pm
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Game in a nutshell: Well, the shutout streak came to an end at 19 innings, but then the Nationals pitching staff began a new one with seven more scoreless innings after Justin Ruggiano's solo homer off Jordan Zimmermann. They didn't need much offense today but got plenty thanks to Ryan Zimmerman's two-run single in the first, Bryce Harper's RBI single in the third and Jayson Werth's three-run bomb in the seventh. Henry Rodriguez retired the side in his first appearance of the season. Tyler Clippard retired the side in the eighth. And Craig Stammen finished off the Nationals' season-opening sweep of the Marlins. They wound up outscoring Miami by a combined score of 11-1. Not a bad start to the year.

Hitting highlight: Werth talked this spring about how he hoped he'd get full strength back in his surgically repaired left wrist, though it hadn't come all the way back yet. Well, that wrist certainly looked strong enough in the bottom of the seventh today when the veteran right fielder crushed a 1-1 pitch from left-hander Mike Dunn over the visitors' bullpen for a three-run homer, his first of the season (and first since his dramatic shot in Game 4 of the NLDS). Only time will tell whether Werth can completely regain the power stroke he displayed earlier in his career, but today's blast was a good sign.

Pitching highlight: Zimmermann didn't really have his best stuff, and the Marlins actually hit him around a bit, to the tune of seven hits in six innings. But the right-hander made only one legitimate mistake, resulting in a Ruggiano solo homer in the second. Otherwise, Zimmermann made big pitches when he needed them, getting out of a sixth-inning jam by inducing a double play out of Adeiny Hechavarria and then getting pinch-hitter Austin Kearns to ground out to prevent the Marlins from scoring. At 89 pitches (60 strikes), Zimmermann wasn't necessarily efficient, but he was effective. And that was more than enough to put the Nationals in position to win their third straight game to begin the season.

Key stat: Since beginning his Nationals career 0-for-3, Denard Span has reached base in six of his last nine plate appearances, giving the new leadoff man a .500 on-base percentage.

Up next: Is it possible to play a big series on the first weekend of April? Perhaps not, but the Nats and Reds do make for a great matchup, even at this early stage of the season. Friday's 7:10 p.m. series opener at Great American BallPark features Dan Haren making his Nationals debut against fellow right-hander Homer Bailey.