For just the 13th time in major league history a baseball team has opened the season with back to back shutouts. The 2013 Washington Nationals backed by Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are the first team to do so since a 2002 Diamondbacks team that featured Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling atop their rotation. It was thought that the Nationals could make history in 2013, but who knew it would be so fast? On Opening Day Bryce Harper became the youngest player to hit two homers on Opening Day and just two days later the Nats became just the 13th team with back to back shutouts to open the season.
It is no mystery that the Nats starting staff is a formidable one and we’re only 2/5 of the way through it. The Marlins line-up is nothing special featuring such luminaries of the game as Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Miguel Olivo, and Casey Kotchman. Speaking of Kotchman he had to exit the game with an injured hamstring after grounding into a double play in the fifth inning. That sequence was in itself Kotchmanesque.
The Marlins had runners on first and second courtesy of double by Ruggiano and walk to Olivo. Kotchman attempted to bunt the first pitch he saw, failed, and instead of giving away one out gave away two grounding into a double play, and to top it off he hurt himself. Kotchman is widely regarded as one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball, but one of baseball’s poorest offensive players mustering a measly .715 OPS is 3,394 career plate appearances.
The bottom of the fifth is where the Nationals would finally make their offensive presence felt. On a cold 40 degree night with nothing carrying and the Nats having hit several line drives at people Gio Gonzalez took matters into his own hands. With one out and none on Gio Gonzalez took the first pitch he saw from Slowey and drove it over the left field fence for the solo homer that broke the 0-0 tie. Gio Gonzalez started off his sixth and final inning with a walk to the opposing pitcher Slowey and then Pierre attempted to bunt for a base hit but was thrown out by a pouncing Suzuki. Gonzalez did the rest himself striking out Solano and Stanton to end the inning.
The the game in the hands of the bullpen they were as solid and the Nats pitching has been all season. Mattheus, Storen, and Soriano closed out the game each throwing a scoreless inning. The biggest threat game in the ninth inning when Soriano allowed a single to Solano and walked Stanton after striking out Pierre. Polanco flew out to right fielder, Jayson Werth, and Ruggiano to Denard Span.
Overall it was another dominating performance by the Nats and another step in leaving their sad history in the past. Historically the Nats have struggled against the Marlins, but a roster featuring so much washed up talent shouldn’t be a match for the team widely believed to be favorites for the World Series. These first two games have both been slow and methodical dissections of a lesser team. The WPA graph looks like death by strangulation. The Nats are a better team, more talented team than the Marlins and have demonstrated that in these first two games.