The Nationals’ 8-4 win in Game 1 of their doubleheader with the Brewers was an uplifting victory for several reasons: it evened their record at .500, locked up a series victory over a team many picked to go to the playoffs. It was also Jason Marquis’ first win at Nationals Park - coming 364 days after he faced seven batters without recording an out against the Brewers - and at least for one game, represented a resurgence for their struggling offense.
They’ll have a chance at a sweep when Game 2 gets started in a few minutes, with Livan Hernandez opposing former Nationals pitcher Marco Estrada. A few notes from the first game:
* The Nationals entered the first game with a .306 team slugging percentage, the worst in the National League. They raised it to .330 in one game, with a pair of homers and another extra-base hit. It’s early, and the Nationals obviously aren’t going to have a .330 slugging percentage all season. They got themselves headed in the right direction in the first game. “We’ve got a lot of guys who haven’t been hitting on all cylinders yet,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “That’s why you’ve got to try and scratch out wins while you’re going through that. This won’t be the only period where we have a little trouble. We’ve still got to try and win the game.” Despite their early slump, though, they’re 7-7.
* A big part of the reason the Nationals have survived their poor start is their starting pitching; with Marquis going seven innings and allowing two runs, the team has now gotten a quality start in six straight games. They don’t have anything close to a dominant pitching staff, but they’re doing enough to transfer games to their bullpen while things are still close. And in the first game of a doubleheader, Marquis’ performance took a load off the Nationals’ bullpen - though he wasn’t too worried about it. “With Livan (Hernandez) on the mound, he could throw 250 pitches,” Hernandez said. “If there’s one guy you want in the back end of a doubleheader, it’s definitely him.”
* Marquis’ performance, though, was impressive in its own right; he allowed eight hits in the first four innings, then only gave up one the rest of the way. He said he’s taken a different approach with his sinker early this year, being more willing to throw it over the plate than he was in the past. That’s not much different than he’s pitched in the past, but Marquis seems more committed to it this year; he threw 68 strikes in 100 pitches today. “I would, in the past, try to live on the edge, try to be too fine with my pitches, try to make perfect pitches every time, when obviously, you can’t,” Marquis said. “I really just focus now on pounding the bottom of the strike zone - ‘Cat’ (pitching coach Steve McCatty) really stresses that a lot. So far, so good.”
Back with more from Game 2 in a little bit.