The Senators opened up the 2013 campaign with a come from behind 4-3 victory over the Bowie Baysox in front of 4,170 fans.
Down 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Harrisburg loaded the bases on a Josh Johnson single and two successive walks to Anthony Rendon and Matt Skole that chased reliever Chris Petrini from the game. Bowie manager Gary Kendall called on longtime Senator Zech Zinicola to face his former teammate Destin Hood with the game on the line.
Hood took a hard-biting slider for a ball before he went the other way with a fastball that scooted through the drawn in infield. As the ball slowed down in the outfield grass, manager Matt LeCroy was able to send Rendon home from second base with the go-ahead run. “Once he laid off that pitch, I knew he was going to get it done,” LeCroy said about Hood’s pivotal at-bat.
Pat Lehman came in and worked an efficient 7-pitch inning to pickup his first save on the year and secure the Senators’ first game in the win column.
Player of the Game: Steven Souza (3-4, 2 R)
From the Windup
• There’s been a lot of talk this spring about the focus on youth and athleticism in the Nationals organization and specifically with the Senators squad. After one game, it’s pretty apparent what the commotion has been all about. In three straight innings, the Senators made terrific defensive plays that put the team’s athleticism on display: second baseman Ricky Hague nabbed a line drive with a perfectly-timed leap, Steven Souza made a sliding catch in foul territory down the right field foul line, and Brian Goodwin made it look almost too easy when he outran a shot into right-center before making a basket catch.
• Starter Brian Broderick was solid as he worked five innings in his first outing of the season. The righthander gave up six hits (although five were of the extra base variety including two home runs) and struck out five.
• A crucial spot in the game put the newest player directly in the hot seat. Ian Krol has only been a member of the organization for the better part of two weeks since he was the eponymous player to be named later in the Michael Morse deal. Krol was facing Xavier Avery with a man on third and one out and the Senators clinging on to a one-run deficit. The infield was drawn in, so if Avery makes even half-decent contact the Baysox would be staked to a two-run lead into the late innings. The southpaw rose to the challenge and struck Avery out looking and then induced Ty Kelly to groundout to Josh Johnson to end the threat. Pitching coach Paul Menhart on his staff’s only lefty, “His history dictates with his demeanor that he has as being a guy that enjoys that type of situation. He has that mentality and that drive. I could tell that from the day I met him.”
• Manager Matt LeCroy didn’t have to look far to see a familiar face as his former teammate Lew Ford played rightfield and batted third for the Baysox. “It’s weird. I’m over there and he’s grinning at me from the on deck circle and talking trash to me when he’s coming in off the field. His story is pretty amazing to come back from independent ball and play in the big leagues and the playoffs last year and then having to come back to Double-A. But he’s happy to have a uniform on him,” the Senators’ skipper said before quickly adding, “I told him he still looks older than me.”
• The win was the Senators fourth straight Opening Day victory played at home in the friendly confines of Metro Bank Park (and formerly named Commerce Bank Park). The Senators now have a cumulative 12-15 record on Opening Day and 17-10 for home openers in their 27-year modern history.
• Although he didn’t play in tonight’s game, outfielder John Ruettiger is on Bowie’s roster. If that last name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the nephew of famed Notre Dame football walk-on Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger.
• Two former Senators found work earlier today. Chris Young re-signed with the Nationals when he couldn’t find a major league job and he’ll be sent to AAA Syracuse. Vladimir Guerrero has reportedly signed a deal with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.