clearn.png
Tuesday April 20th, 2021 7:23AM

Not quite 'Your 2021 Washington Nationals!' finally playing

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Washington Nationals, and their opponents, the Atlanta Braves, lined up for pregame introductions Tuesday, they stood near “OPENING WEEK” stencils in white paint beside the green-as-can-be grass along the baselines.

Who could have known it would take nearly a full week into the 2021 regular season before the coronavirus-hit Nationals would play — and, it turned out, beat Atlanta 6-5?

And who could have imagined that the stadium announcer's enthusiastic shout to spectators — yes, 5,000 were permitted, socially distanced, after being banned last season, and 4,801 showed up — presenting “Your 2021 Washington Nationals!” would be rather misleading, because more than a third of what was supposed to be the 26-man roster was absent?

“Just to have that atmosphere back here at Nationals Park, it was welcome,” Max Scherzer said after giving up a homer on the first pitch of the game and four solo shots in all during the initial three innings. “I don’t understand why we can't have more fans here.”

The Nationals finally got started five days later than they were supposed to, delayed because of an outbreak in which four players tested positive for COVID-19 and seven others were told to quarantine after contact tracing deemed they potentially were exposed to the illness.

“Obviously they want to be here and they want to be with the team. That’s a struggle for them,” manager Dave Martinez said before the game. “But overall, they’re in good shape. They feel good. They can’t wait to be back.”

The fans on hand clearly were thrilled, finding any excuse to clap or cheer, whether when a flag noting the team's 2019 World Series title was raised on the concourse beyond left field — it originally was lifted in July 2020, without anyone in the stands to see it — or when Scherzer walked from the dugout to right field to begin his pre-start routine.

“Oh, man, it’s been a long time coming,” Martinez said. “It’s good for us. It’s good for baseball. And it’s good for the city.”

It got downright raucous by the end, when Juan Soto's single in the bottom of the ninth broke a tie, setting off a wild celebration on the diamond and in the seats.

“Being back is fun. Playing is fun,” said Trea Turner, who hit a two-run homer. “Winning is fun.”

Previously shuttered concession stands were open, selling hot dogs and the rest — with sign-of-the-times touchless condiment machines nearby. Team store mannequins were decked out in Nationals jerseys, caps — and sign-of-the-times masks emblazoned with the team name.

“Somewhat normal,” is how Turner described the setting.

On the field, though, this was not the full version of the Nationals that GM Mike Rizzo assembled in an attempt to move past a tied-for-last finish in 2020.

Among the missing: two members of the vaunted rotation — Jon Lester and Patrick Corbin — new closer Brad Hand, and four starting position players: left fielder Kyle Schwarber, first baseman Josh Bell, second baseman Josh Harrison and catcher Yan Gomes.

All were put on the 10-day injured list Tuesday, as were backup catcher Alex Avila and reserve infielder Jordy Mercer. No reason was given for those nine moves; a 10th player who went on the IL, reliever Will Harris, was identified as having inflammation in his right hand.

“When we get these guys back, we’ll be ready,” Martinez said. “For right now, I feel like we're going to be able to compete, even with the guys we’ve got.”

But at least the Nationals were playing.

Washington’s season-opening three-game series against the New York Mets was scrapped because of the home team’s outbreak; so was Monday’s series-opener against Atlanta, which will be made up in a doubleheader Wednesday.

“It's kind of part of the craziness that we’ve all been part of the last year-plus,” said Ryan Zimmerman, who opted out of last season because of COVID-19 worries and started at first base Tuesday. “You’ve just got to stay ready and be ready to go when it’s time to play.”

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - Major League Baseball
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Police official: Chauvin trained to avoid neck pressure
Jurors at the murder trial of ex-Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin have been told that he received extensive training in how to defuse tense situations and how to properly restrain suspects
5:29PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Baddoo delivers again for Tigers with winning hit vs Twins
Akil Baddoo added another big hit in this charmed start to his big league career, lining an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Detroit Tigers a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins
5:29PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Senate gives Biden a big tool to work around GOP filibuster
With a powerful new tool, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has fresh options for advancing President Joe Biden’s priorities over Republican obstruction in the 50-50 split Senate
5:27PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
NCAA may consider single site for part of future tourneys
An NCAA official says the governing body may consider using a single site for later rounds of men’s college basketball tournaments following a successful run in Indianapolis
4:43PM ( 56 minutes ago )
McConnell warns biz off political speech, says it's 'stupid'
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says “it’s quite stupid” for corporations to speak out against the Georgia voting law
4:31PM ( 1 hour ago )
Braves acquire infielder Arcia from Brewers for 2 pitchers
The Atlanta Braves have acquired infielder Orlando Arcia from the Milwaukee Brewers for right-handed pitchers Chad Sobotka and Patrick Weigel
3:32PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Sports
LEADING OFF: Nats set to start short-handed vs Braves
The Washington Nationals are finally set to start their season, hosting Atlanta after their three-game series against the New York Mets was postponed by a coronavirus outbreak
3:22AM ( 14 hours ago )
Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. dislocates shoulder on swing
Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. hurt himself taking a hard swing and immediately left the game against the San Francisco Giants
1:04AM ( 16 hours ago )
AP source: MLB moving All-Star Game to Denver's Coors Field
Major League Baseball plans to relocate the All-Star Game to Coors Field in Denver after pulling this year’s Midsummer Classic from Atlanta over objections to sweeping changes to Georgia’s voting laws, according to a person familiar with the decision
11:21PM ( 18 hours ago )
AP Online Baseball
The Latest: Sounders of MLS get the OK to have fans
The Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer have been given the go-ahead to have fans back at Lumen Field for the first time in over a year
5:15PM ( 1 day ago )
Scherzer, COVID-depleted Nats finally set to play vs. Braves
The Washington Nationals have held a workout at their stadium as they prepare to finally start their season
4:52PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Alderson says some Mets hesitating to get shots
Some New York Mets players have hesitated to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, and that's prompted the team to set up education efforts
3:58PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - Major League Baseball
Police official: Chauvin trained to avoid neck pressure
Jurors at the murder trial of ex-Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin have been told that he received extensive training in how to defuse tense situations and how to properly restrain suspects
5:29PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Baddoo delivers again for Tigers with winning hit vs Twins
Akil Baddoo added another big hit in this charmed start to his big league career, lining an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Detroit Tigers a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins
5:29PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Senate gives Biden a big tool to work around GOP filibuster
With a powerful new tool, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has fresh options for advancing President Joe Biden’s priorities over Republican obstruction in the 50-50 split Senate
5:27PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Navy medic shoots 2 US sailors; is stopped, killed on base
Authorities say a Navy medic shot and wounded two U.S. sailors at a military facility before fleeing to a nearby Army base where security forces shot and killed him
5:26PM ( 13 minutes ago )
California's Pacific Gas & Electric charged in 2019 wildfire
A California prosecutor has filed 33 criminal counts against troubled Pacific Gas & Electric for a 2019 fire officials blamed on the utility
5:24PM ( 15 minutes ago )