Watching the Washington Nationals celebrate is sort of growing old for Juan Pierre. He saw them clinch the National League East title last October, in person as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. And, while standing on the third-base line with the rest of the Marlins on Monday, he watched them celebrate some more by unveiling the championship banner during a lengthy pregame ceremony.
“With the long intros and all that stuff, I was telling the kids, ‘That’s what you get when you win — fans, the scoreboard, all that stuff,’ ” said Pierre, one of the few grizzled mentors the Marlins have on the roster. “I think it was good for us to sit and watch it. Hopefully, we can do something like that.”
For that ever to happen, the Marlins will have to do better than they did Monday. The Marlins were stymied by pitcher Stephen Strasburg and dazzled by Bryce Harper in a 2-0 loss to start the season.
Strasburg delivered seven shutout innings, and Harper clobbered a pair of solo homers off Ricky Nolasco, spoiling Mike Redmond’s managerial debut at the major-league level. The Marlins totaled only three hits all game as Strasburg, one of the game’s most dominant pitchers, retired 19 in a row after giving up a leadoff single to Pierre in the first.
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And what few chances the Marlins had to score went for naught, once because of a fine fielding play by Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and the second time on a base-running mistake by Placido Polanco.
“It seems too early to panic,” said Marlins president David Samson before entering the clubhouse afterward.
Panic would be premature.
But if Monday was a microcosm of the season to come, it could be a painfully long one for the Marlins. The lineup didn’t do squat, though few do when it’s Strasburg on the mound. Polanco’s mental error proved costly. And Nolasco was hurt by the long ball, although he was solid otherwise in holding the Nationals to only one other hit through six innings beside the two Harper blasts.
“Didn’t make the best pitches to him, and he didn’t miss them,” Nolasco said of Harper, last season’s NL Rookie of the Year. “That’s what good hitters do. He’s not missing those mistakes.”
Harper put the Nationals on top in the first with a line shot to right on a 1-0 curveball and went deep to right again his second time up on a 3-2 slider.
“Ricky did a nice job,” Redmond said. “He just made two bad pitches there for home runs, and that was the difference in the game. Otherwise, we’d still be out there playing. It’s the first time I’ve seen him [Harper] play. Obviously, he had a heckuva day.”
Polanco was robbed of a run-scoring hit in the first inning when Zimmerman made a fine play to his left to make the grab and throw out the runner for the third out. But the Marlins missed out on an even bigger scoring opportunity in the seventh. After a leadoff double by Giancarlo Stanton and infield hit by Polanco, the Marlins had runners at the corners with one out.
Rob Brantly hit a fly ball to the strong-armed Harper in left that was not deep enough to score Stanton, but Polanco was caught in a rundown between first and second. Stanton then made a break for the plate and was thrown out.
“On a tag from first base, you read the ball,” Polanco said. “If it’s a high throw, you go. If it’s a low throw, you come back. It was a high throw, and I kept going. Then I got caught in no-man’s land.”
Stanton was tagged for the final out of the inning, and the last one recorded by Strasburg. He was lifted after 80 pitches.
“We only had three hits, so anytime you are in a 2-0 game and you make a mistake, it’s going to be magnified,” Redmond said.
After a day off Tuesday, the Marlins and Nationals re-engage Wednesday.
“Hopefully, we go out Wednesday and get Red his first victory,” Pierre said.