PHILADELPHIA (AP)—These aren’t the light-hitting Washington Nationals anymore.
No team scored fewer runs in the majors last year than Washington. But the return of Johnson and Cristian Guzman, plus the additions of Lastings Milledge and Paul Lo Duca, bolstered the Nationals’ lineup.
“Everybody is calling us the worst offensive team in the league,” said Milledge, acquired in a trade from the New York Mets. “We want to show we not only play hard, but play to win. We want to show we can hit, too.”
Before outslugging a team that led the league in runs the last two seasons, the Nationals on Sunday night outpitched a staff that’s been one of the best in the majors the past decade.
Ryan Zimmerman’s solo homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth gave Washington a 3-2 victory over Atlanta in the debut of its $611 million Nationals Park.
No doubt, there was some celebrating on the bus ride to Philly. The Nationals arrived after 2 a.m., but weren’t too tired to spoil the Phillies’ opening-day party.
“They’re young and energetic. It’s not going to affect them in the second game,” manager Manny Acta said.
Reigning NL MVP Jimmy Rollins hit a tying, two-run homer in the seventh, but the Phillies’ bullpen blew it.
Milledge led off the ninth with an infield single off Gordon (0-1). Johnson’s one-out double to right-center drove in Milledge, who barely scored standing up.
Saul Rivera (1-0) pitched a perfect eighth.
“It wasn’t my day,” Gordon said. “You definitely don’t want to start that way.”
The Phillies overcame a poor start and a slew of injuries to surpass the New York Mets in the final weekend last season. They clinched their first NL East title in 14 years with a victory over the Nationals on the final day of the regular season, but got swept by Colorado in a first-round series.
Expectations are high for this season for a city starving for a celebration. Fans displayed a large banner that read: “World Series or Bust.”
For the third straight year, the Phillies lost their opener.
Down 6-2 after Milledge hit a two-run shot off Ryan Madson in the sixth, the Fightin’ Phils pulled off a rally as they did so often last season.
That set the stage for Rollins, who had a career-best 30 homers last season. He ripped a liner into the left-center field seats, atoning for a costly error in Washington’s four-run fifth.
With the crowd chanting “MVP,” Rollins circled the bases and then came out of the dugout for the season’s first curtain call.
Brett Myers had a so-so return to the rotation for the Phillies after finishing last year as the closer. He tossed four scoreless innings, but seemed to tire in the fifth. Myers allowed four runs—three earned—and five hits in five innings. He also walked two and hit two batters.
“I didn’t have my best stuff,” Myers said. “Hopefully I do better next time.”
A sellout crowd of 44,553 turned out for the fifth season opener at Citizens Bank Park. They gave rousing ovations to Rollins, Utley, Howard, even Burrell and manager Charlie Manuel. But it wouldn’t be Philadelphia without boos. Pitcher Adam Eaton got an earful, though he took it well and waved his arm to encourage a few more.
: One member of the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachuted onto the field with the first ball. Due to high winds, the rest of the jumpers didn’t make the leap. … Willie Harris started for Nationals LF Elijah Dukes, who was put on the disabled list after injuring his right hamstring on Sunday night. … Washington is 2-0 for the first time since 2003.