Bryce Harper's MVP campaign started with a bang (USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES)
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The Nationals first victory of the season was textbook. It was scripted. It was as dazzling as a 2-0 victory over the worst team in baseball can get. And it's probably how this flourishing baseball team will win several of their games in 2013.
Their superstar slugger, Bryce Harper, roped two gorgeous home runs to right field, sprinting around the bases, tipping his cap to the sellout crowd on a curtain call in the fourth inning.
Their flame throwing righty, Stephen Strasburg, retired 19 Marlins in a row, seeing his first pressure packed outing since last September.
"Nothing beats the adrenaline rush with a couple run lead, and [just] going after guys. And he made it look easy," said Davey Johnson of Strasburg.
And their newly acquired closer Rafael Soriano had Marlins batters clueless at the plate, striking out two including Giancarlo Stanton (1-for-4) to end the game.
There will eventually be some bumps in the Nationals long road towards October greatness, but on Monday it was all smooth sailing.
Bryce Harper is staking a claim as the most feared hitter in the National League
There aren't too many iconic moments in the Washington Nationals brief nine-year history. Winning the NL East title was the most memorable moment so far in franchise history. Jayson Werth's Game 4 NLDS walkoff is obviously number two on that list, arguably number one. Ryan Zimmerman's walkoff home run in the first ever game at Nationals Park is another. Harper produced one last season, when he stole home against Cole Hamels and vaunted Philadelphia Phillies.
The list of distinguished moments in Nationals history is going to significantly multiply in 2013, primarily because of Bryce Harper. Even though it's just opening day, his two solo home runs to right field jolted the baseball world. When Harper does something special, it feels like baseball history. It feels like Ken Griffey Jr., it feels like Willie Mays. It feels like his hero, Mickey Mantle.
"He's got it mentally to where you can tell the guy wants to be the best player to ever play the game," said veteran Adam LaRoche of Harper.
If the 20-year-old is able to cream breaking pitches like he did against Marlins ace Ricky Nolasco, don't be surprised if you see the Nationals MVP candidate lead the league in intentional walks. Remember, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old because of his home run hitting abilities. It was only a matter of time before his power was abundantly known as a staple throughout Major League Baseball.
Harper's not one to talk much about himself either. On the significance of being the youngest player to hit two home runs on opening day, Harper said: "Just getting some runs on the board for Stras. That was big for him."
Stephen Strasburg's new approach worked
It wasn't the old poetry in motion Strasburg that we were all used to seeing. Strasburg practiced what he preached in spring training -- he's no longer going to rely on making batters look foolish at the plate; instead he's focused on not over-pitching just for the sake of upping his strikeout numbers. On Monday, his control was pinpoint. His velocity was touching 98 miles per hour at times. And he gleefully explained how catcher Wilson Ramos put him "in a groove." Remember, this is Ramos first time on the field since May of 2012. The Nationals ace only struck out three batters in his seven innings of work, but looked masterful nonetheless.
Stephen Strasburg still wasn't fully unleashed
The one unrealistic complaint Nationals fans will hurl towards their team's opening day win is that manager Davey Johnson hooked Strasburg too early. The 'Almighty Righty' strung together just 80 pitches in seven innings, showing just how effective that above mentioned philosophy proved to be.
But after what transpired with his nationally polarizing innings limit last season, some will say it would've been nice to see number 37 go at least eight innings. Baseball extraordinaire Thomas Boswell makes a good point: the Nationals must keep the back end of their bullpen sharp with early season games against the Reds and Braves. The 'pen needs to see some action to keep in a rhythm.
"If it wasn't for opening day and the first start of the year, it would've been a different story," Strasburg said of his earlier than anticipated exit.
Tyler Clippard was the first call out of the bullpen
Don't look into this situation and think Drew Storen is already in Davey Johnson's doghouse. Johnson simply said in his presser that Clippard matched up well against the Marlins best pinch hitter Greg Dobbs. Also, I guessed the Nationals would have a closer by committee later in the season. After seeing Soriano's confidence in person, I'm already wavering on that prediction.