Hey all, it’s Monty here with the new Positive Vibes Only game recap for Opening Day. Look, we know the Nationals are going to bad this season, and as we’ve gotten so used to high expectations and winning games since 2012, it can be very difficult for us as fans to adjust to rebuilding baseball team. Many of you are feeling frustrated, defeated, or apathetic regarding this year’s team, and that’s understandable. You are welcome to be a fan of this team in whatever way you want, but if you’re looking to try and enjoy a low expectation ball team, then I am here to help with our new Positive Vibes Only game recap series. The purpose of these recaps is not necessarily to focus on the wins and losses, but instead to focus the little things that will make watching the team bearable in tough times.
I’ll also be trying to bring this Positive Vibes Only energy to our new HSHH Postgame Twitter Spaces. Now this is not a blindly optimistic endeavor where I’ll be try to positively spin something that isn’t good, such as our bullpen. Our bullpen is not good, and I’m not going to sit here and try to polish a turd and tell you it’s gold. But I’m not going to sit here and rail on the bullpen or other negative issues every night in the Twitter Space or every day in the recap on this blog. I’m going to try and find the silver lining in performancees and polish those diamonds that might be hard to see under all those turds (Sorry, I know the metaphor isn’t great but I tried). Anyways, that’s what’s going down in these recaps, let’s get started.
The Washington Nationals lost on Opening Day to the visiting New York Mets by a score of 5-1. The game was close as a scoreless tie for 4 innings, before the Mets finally put a stranglehold on the game and the Nats bullpen got involved. First and foremost, the easiest silver lining to find in the game yesterday is that Nationals baseball is back. With the lockout so soon after the pandemic shortened season, and the way the league procrastinated until beyond the last second of their self-imposed deadline, there was real fear across baseball and especially Nats Twitter that we would lose part of the season. And we didn’t, so it’s great that baseball is back and we’re able to watch, discuss, and commiserate about the Nats once again.
Okay, now on to the performances. Another easy one is Juan Soto. He’s the main reason for many Nats fans to even tune in this season. He hit a monster shot to the second deck yesterday to score our only run and it was absolutely sexy. Capitals fans were quick to point out that “Juan Soto hitting a home run in a Nats loss is a win” is the new “When Ovi scores we win”. And they’re right– getting to watch Juan Soto hit, and hit bombs, is an immense pleasure that I enjoy regardless of whether the Nats win or lose. And yesterday’s 428 foot missile was the 99th of his career, so from today forward, he’s hunting for #100 and that’s pretty exciting.
Rookie backstop Keibert Ruiz is the Nationals catcher of
the future now and was a joy to watch on both sides of the ball. It didn’t take long for the youngster to put a massive smile on my face as he threw an absolute cannon to catch Starling Marte (who I thought got a good job and was going to be easily safe) stealing. His pitch framing was exceptional and he stole a handful of strikes that helped Corbin get through 4 innings early. And that tag to complete Escobar’s perfect throw was just *chef’s kiss*. And then every time Ruiz came to the plate he was outstanding. If it was summer and the weather was warm, he would’ve started 2-2 with 2 home runs– instead he had to settle for a double and a very loud out. His other hit was a sharp single and even his final AB where a lazy fly out was the result, he battled back from down 0-2 in the count to even it at 2-2 and ultimately see 8 pitches. As someone boldly proclaimed in a reply to the HSHH twitter “he’s Anthony Rendon at catcher” and if that’s anything close to true, then we are in for a treat.
Let’s talk about our 35 year-old shortstop. No, it’s not a good thing that he’s our primary shortstop, but he was a joy to watch yesterday as he dazzled on defense and added a hit offensively. His relay throw from Robles to home plate to nail Pete Alonso was sublime. On the Postgame Twitter Space last night I described it as “defensive pornography” and I’ve re-watched it about a dozen times today. And that backhanded play in the hole to throw out Lindor earlier in the same inning had me drooling. There’s not going to be a lot of times where we celebrate Esky this year, but Opening Day is one of them based on his defense alone.
Other positives include Victor Arano out of the bullpen limiting Corbin’s implosion in the 5th. He came in and threw 5 pitches, 4 strikes, and got 3 outs and only allowed one inherited runner to score after the Nats “ace” walked the bases loaded and hit James McCann. And I thought Mason Thompson was fantastic despite getting squeezed by the umpire and hitting Alonso in the head with a pitch that got away. I know part of what makes him decent is that he’s effectively wild, but he needs to work on that control or he’s going to hurt someone. That being said I thought his fastball/slider combo was excellent last night and he could’ve had four strikeouts in the inning if he umpire hadn’t squeezed him earlier in the Alonso AB.
So those are my positive takeaways from the Opening Day loss against the Mets. Beyond finding these little things to root for and enjoy, it also just helps to laugh sometimes at some of the horrid displays, like when Patrick Murphy came in and gave up a hit before we could tweet he was in the game, and gave up another hit before we could tweet the first one. Listen, as Mark Twain once said, “happiness and sanity are a hopeless situation.” So let’s get a little insane and find ways to enjoy this bad Nationals team, otherwise we’re in for an unhappy season.