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For Nats pitchers, an unconventional return makes throwing challenging

It's the first game back at Nats Park and one thing is missing -- well, thousands actually. Fans. Here's how Nats pitchers say the silence impacts their game.

WASHINGTON — When Max Scherzer steps up to the mound on the first game of a season, there usually would be a boom of music echoing around a fully packed Nats stadium, a cacophony of cheers and pre-game rituals.

But on Thursday, there was silence.

While Opening Day for the reigning World Series champs kicked off in a historic matchup against the New York Yankees — the first time since 1925 — the game looked a bit different. 

Nats pitcher Sean Doolittle said he's always relied on stadiums being packed with fans, whose energy and support helps quell nerves.

“It’s really different," Doolittle said in a press conference Wednesday. "I thrive very much on the atmosphere and the energy of the stadium when I’m pitching. I really, throughout my career, I’ve learned to kind of channel that energy." 

Max Scherzer started for the team, going up against Gerrit Cole, creating the same matchup as Game 1 of the World Series.

“It's definitely something new to get used to," Scherzer said of the unusual circumstances, saying he definitely enjoyed the crowd hype during games." I think we all are going to get used to it."

Regardless of the matchup, it was a 'first' for another pitcher for an entirely different reason.

Self-proclaimed Nationals super fan and top disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Unfortunately, it looks like the masked Dr. Fauci needed a few more warmup throws. His ball landed somewhere between home plate and the Nats' dugout entrance. 

Perhaps the baseball wanted to practice effective social distancing?  

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