Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Murphy caps big Nats debut with go-ahead hit

The final Opening Day at Turner Field provided the stage for a couple of division rivals to reunite in thrilling fashion. After overcoming their bullpen's rough eighth inning, the Nationals tied the game in the ninth and then saw Daniel Murphy cap his memorable debut with a 10th-inning go-ahead double that proved decisive in Monday afternoon's 4-3 win over the Braves.
Playing in his first game with the Nationals, Murphy extended last year's postseason power surge with a fourth-inning homer off Julio Teheran. The veteran second baseman then followed Gordon Beckham's throwing error in the 10th by delivering an opposite-field double that scored Ryan Zimmerman and preserved the effort submitted by Max Scherzer, who limited his damage over seven innings to solo home runs from Freddie Freeman andAdonis Garcia.
Murphy was reluctant to talk about himself after the game. He said it was a team victory.
"It was a great win," Murphy said. "I think it started with Max going seven innings. It was really nice to be on this side of that, and Bryce Harper picks up where he left off last year."
Long after Harper and Murphy blemished Teheran's six-inning effort with solo homers, the Braves claimed a brief lead in the eighth inning, when they drew two walks -- including the four-pitch, bases-loaded walk Shawn Kelley issued to Garcia to give Atlanta a 3-2 edge.
"Things just didn't fall into place," Freeman said. "This was the last Opening Day at Turner Field. Things are supposed to fall into place. It just didn't happen. We played a great ballgame until the last couple of innings."
Grilli's ninth-inning misfortunes: The Nationals tied the game in the ninth courtesy ofMichael Taylor's sacrifice fly. Ender Inciarte snared Taylor's fly ball in center field and fired an accurate throw that A.J. Pierzynski could not handle as Jayson Werth slid across the plate. This accounted for just a portion of the misfortune experienced by Jason Grilli, who was making his first appearance since rupturing his left Achilles on July 11. Wilson Ramossingled through a shaded defensive alignment and Danny Espinosa's sacrifice bunt on a 1-2 pitch fell in no man's land near the first-base line. More >
Harper begins encore: After getting booed while being introduced to the crowd, Harper answered back by swinging at a 2-2 pitch and hitting his first home run, a solo shot in the first inning. It came after Anthony Rendon was caught trying to steal second base.
"Why not. It's just part of the game," Harper said about the fans and the homer. "Coming [to Turner Field] is fun to play in. They had a sold-out crowd [today]. That's huge.That's the first time I've ever seen Turner Field sold out. It's a lot of fun to play here and I enjoy it with the fans. It's a lot of fun playing here." More >
First time's a charm: As Freeman prepared for Monday's game, he reiterated that he had never faced Scherzer during the regular season or Spring Training. The unfamiliarity did not seem to matter to the Braves first baseman, who drilled the third consecutive fastball he saw -- the last of the 96-mph variety -- over the center-field wall to tie the game 1-1 in the first inning. More >
Scherzer solid for seven innings: He didn't throw a no-hitter like he did during his final regular-season start of 2015. But Scherzer pitched seven solid innings, allowing two runs on three hits. Two of those hits came on solo homers by Freeman and Garcia.
"I did a lot of things well today," Scherzer said. "I was sharp with the offspeed [pitches]. I was able to execute a lot of things. I got a lot of popups. I made one mistake to Garcia. He hit an 0-2 slider out. That's what happens in this level. Overall, I was able to keep working ahead in the count and just keep forcing their hand. I was able to get some key outs in some big situations."
"That was a pretty humbling experience, you just wish the ending could have been a little different for us."
-- Jeff Francoeur, on the raucous ovation he drew as he came to the plate as a Brave for the first time since 2009 and drew a one-one walk that sparked Atlanta in the eighth
"It's kind of like the game telling me, 'Welcome back.' There were a lot of highs and lows in that game. Boy, it was some ballgame. During the course of the game, we left a lot of men on base. We could have broken that game open a couple of times. But they were fighting and fighting."
-- Nats manager Dusty Baker, on his first win since 2013
Harper's first-inning homer could have been a two-run shot had Teheran not caught Rendon leaning too far off first base moments earlier. The Braves hurler has 20 pickoffs since the start of 2013. No other right-hander pitcher entered Monday with more than 11 pickoffs during this span. .
Garcia's fourth-inning solo shot gave him 11 home runs through 200 career plate appearances.
New slide rule
The Braves attempted to spark a rally after Nick Markakis drew a leadoff walk in the seventh inning. Hector Olivera followed with a grounder that was too slow for the Nationals to turn two. But a double play was awarded when second-base umpire Paul Nauert determined Markakis' wide slide was not prohibited by MLB's new sliding rule to protect middle infielders.
Nationals: The Nats have Tuesday off and then will have right-hander Stephen Strasburgmaking his first start of the season on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Strasburg will face Atlanta for the 20th time in his career. He is 6-7 with a 3.77 ERA against the Braves during his career.
Braves : Atlanta will send Bud Norris to the mound when this two-game series against the Nationals concludes at Turner Field. Norris is looking to rebound after posting a 6.72 ERA between the Orioles and Padres last year.

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