WASHINGTON – Their opening day, which has already been postponed for five days, began with a meeting between longtime ace Max Scherzer and recently signed catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
It ended with manager Davey Martinez lifting his franchise player Juan Soto off the ground in joy, acting for a moment as if he didn’t want to let him go.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Washington nationals were finally due to play baseball, the last of the 30 major league teams to come out on the field and the only ones staying in what can only be described as a major league midfield.
It’s no longer 2019 – yet, due to the fact that a global pandemic has prevented their fans from seeing a banner fluttering high above Nationals Park, they have raised another toast for the first game for their first team in the World Series Championship.
No more 2020 – COVID-19, although beaten, has not yet come out, so four citizens who tested positive for coronavirus and seven other people marked for contact were not near the playground.
It’s 2021, and Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber should represent a page turn from a growing blurry title to a fivefold fight for the National League East.
Instead, they are in a group of solid vets limited from the side, 11 places are taken by their place, and five are squeezed into the service against the current champion of the Atlanta Braves division.
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Pandemic baseball can’t live, so players – even reluctantly – they are preparing for vaccination and adhering to the protocol and want to avoid what happened to the citizens: The outbreak of the beginning of the season that pays homage to the capricious nature of the terrible virus.
So they played match no. 1 after many teams had five books and discovered that this year of transition in baseball – at least a medium pandemic – doesn’t have to be a nightmare.
After 3 hours and 10 minutes, after an empty walk for most of last week, Soto swallowed a fast 3-0 ball from Braves ’relief of Will Smith, driving home Victor Robles with a winning streak, and the citizens had already felt the difference from the dark and lost 2020.
The crowd, which did not have 5,000 due to local regulations, roared as loudly as they could. Soto’s teammates swam to the dugout looking for de rigeuer mobbing over the player who wins the game after his first move in his career – although Martinez said with passion that he was invisible in last year’s 60-game sprint.
And after Soto separated from his happy friends, the bearer win 6-5, Martinez blocked his path and embraced him – days and days of registry and pandemic logistics give way to tired joy.
If baseball is going to look like this in 2021, consider it a significant, albeit trial, upgrade from last year’s record.
“It was very emotional,” Martinez said of the opening, which began with a set of 19-player transactions and ended with returns of 3-0 and 5-4. “It ended very, very well. I will relax, sit in my office and enjoy a glass of wine.
“I didn’t want to play in substitutions anymore. We have two games tomorrow. ”
Martinez’s sobering message – OK, added with maybe a bit of cabernet – reminded that Nationals and Braves will play two on Wednesday because they didn’t play a really good Monday. It was a reminder that at some point after the New York Mets would have to invent three games the three-game opening season series was deleted while the Nationals and MLB were trying to round out the lubricated pig of the COVID-19 epidemic which unfortunately sowed itself as the club flew home from spring training.
These makeup will come in time. Victory no. 1 was for many to enjoy.
Start with Lucroy. The veteran catcher was waiting for a job – and admittedly, looking at a carrot of 10 years of service in the major leagues and the pension that comes with it.
He has only been afraid of that label for a few days, but he knows that he may not come with the citizens. Catchers Alex Avila and Yan Gomes, Scherzer pointed out, should not be on the sidelines while waiting for approval.
Maybe that’s why Lucroy couldn’t get himself to call the Nationals “we” on Wednesday. Instead, Keanu Reeves was his muse.
“I feel like a mercenary, somehow,” Lucroy said, “like Shane Falc in“ Substitutions. ”But hey, I play baseball. It’s going to be great, no matter. Almost 10 years (service), I’m almost there and I’m fine with everything what happens.
“These guys got a special club house. I’m happy to be a small part of that right now. “
Turns out Lucroy drove home the first two seasons of the season with a double-double, even as he initially struggled to click with Scherzer, who gave up four solo home runs but also scored nine.
Lucroy and Scherzer talked on Monday, met on Tuesday and avoided enough sweet spots to keep the Braves without a win. The potential green light of Braves ’home is reversed, allowing Soto to send fans – yes, fans – home.
“I feel amazing,” Soto said. “It’s crazy how good it feels. I can’t even believe that the ninth alternation with the rumble of the crowd is speeding up my heart. It’s just a great feeling. ”
He will soon share this with many more of his friends. And maybe in 2021 they’ll really get their own, exciting baseball identity.
Follow Gabe Lacques USA TODAY Sports on Twitter @GabeLacques.