The Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals kicked off the 2008 MLB season in the states in outstanding fashion.
The Nationals christened their new stadium in dramatic fashion. Before the game, President Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The game could not have started out better for the National's. The first pitch by starter Odalis Perez was a strike. Kelly Johnson, the first batter faced by Perez, was struck out to begin the game.
In the bottom of the first, Cristian Guzman collected the first hit in Nationals Park history with a broken bat single to right. Braves starting pitcher Tim Hudson then threw an errant pickoff throw to first, and Guzman was able to advance to third on the error. Hudson sequentially retired the next two Nationals hitters. Nick Johnson then picked up the first RBI in Nationals Park on a hustle double down the right field line. The next batter, Austin Kearns, singled to right and Johnson was able to score. Hudson was able to get out of the inning without any more damage. After one Nationals 2 Braves 0.
In the top of the fourth, Chipper Jones connected for the 1st HR in the park's history on a line drive to left-center field.
After the 1st inning, Hudson settled down and ended up pitching 7 strong innings allowing only the 2 first inning runs. Hudson retired the last 14 batters he faced.
The game went to the 9th, Nationals 2 Braves 1. In the top of the ninth, the Nationals reliable closer Chad Cordero was injured and was unable to come into the game. So, the Nationals turned to Jon Rauch to close out the game. The 1st batter Rauch faced, Chipper Jones, hit a rope that Rauch snared to secure the 1st out. The next batter, Mark Teixeira, hit a liner to right-center that banged off the top of the wall for a double. The only thing that kept the ball in the ballpark was the amount of topspin Teixeira puts on the ball when he connects. Martin Prado then pinch ran for Teixeira at 2nd. Jeff Francoeur advanced Prado to 3rd on a 4-3 groundout. 2 outs runner on 3rd. That brought Brian McCann to the plate. On the 2nd pitch of the at bat, newly acquired catcher Paul Lo Duca was charged with a passed ball and Prado was able to score to tie the game at 2 to 2. Rauch sequentially retired McCann to end the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Braves reliever Pete Moylan had no trouble retiring the Nationals first two batters. Then came the face of the Nationals, Ryan Zimmeran. Up until that point, the Braves pitchers had retired 24 consecutive Nationals batters, everyone since the 1st inning. And just as ESPN's Jon Miller got out of his mouth that Zimmerman had 18 game winning RBI's in his rookie season, smack, Zimmerman hit a game winning HR to left-center. Zimmerman pumped his fist as he rounded first base and his teammates bombarded him at home plate. The Nationals were 1-0 at their new stadium.
The Braves lost 25 of 43 one-run games last year, and they are now 0-2 in one-run games this season after losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates 12-11 on Tuesday night. The Braves do not need to be reminded how much of a difference those games can make in a pennant race. "One-run games, that's how you get to the postseason," Brian McCann said. "You've got to win them. Hopefully, we can get on the right track."
The Braves will try to get their first win of the season when the host the Pirates on Wednesday night. The game is scheduled to start at 7:10 PM, and it will pit Tom Gorzelanny vs. first year Braves starter Jair Jurrjens.