After wild first inning, rain hits home opener (Nats lose 6-4)

The Nationals and Marlins took the field at 4:05 p.m. knowing they had a window of clear weather to begin today's game and probably get several innings in the books before the expected rain returned to the area.

Turns out both lineups were just too darn productive out of the chute to get more than an inning and a half completed before the first delay of the afternoon.

nats-park-rain-delay-made-july-18.jpgBoth the Marlins and Nationals scored three runs in the first inning, turning the home opener into a slugfest.

Miami got to Tanner Roark in the top of the inning with four consecutive singles, the last a bases-loaded shot back up the middle by Martin Prado that brought home two runs. J.T. Realmuto's blooper over Ryan Zimmerman's outstretched glove behind first base made it 3-0 and left the big crowd at Nationals Park restless.

Never fear, because the Nationals responded with their own three-spot in the bottom of the inning. Anthony Rendon's one-out double to deep left-center got things started, and then left-hander Adam Conley put himself in a real jam issuing back-to-back walks to Bryce Harper and Zimmerman to load the bases for Jayson Werth.

Werth, bumped up the fifth spot in Dusty Baker's lineup today because of his track record against lefties, didn't get the job done, striking out. But newcomer Daniel Murphy picked up his teammate with a blast off the right field wall, clearing the bases with one blow and racing all the way to third base as the crowd roared.

Given new life, Roark took the mound for the top of the second and escaped by getting Giancarlo Stanton to ground out, stranding two on base. Moments later, the heavens opened up, leaving fans scurrying for cover and the grounds crew to roll out the tarp.

Update: The sky has cleared, a rainbow has emerged beyond the right field stands and the Nationals say this game is expected to resume at 6:15 p.m. We'll see if Tanner Roark returns to the mound after what will end up being an 85-minute delay or so. My hunch is that he won't come back out and we'll be seeing Yusmeiro Petit making his Nats debut. Stay tuned ...

Update II: And we're back after a delay of 1 hour, 25 minutes. Also back is Roark, who returned to the mound despite the lengthy layoff. Whether that affected him or not in the top of the third, he did struggle. The Marlins picked up three more hits off him in the frame, giving them eight for the game (all singles). Wilson Ramos' throwing error on J.T. Realmuto's stolen base didn't help matters, setting the stage for Adeiny Hechavarria's RBI single, putting Miami back on top 4-3.

Don Mattingly didn't let his starter return from the delay, so it was right-hander David Phelps taking over in the bottom of the second. The one-time Yankees prospect has churned out two scoreless innings so far, leaving the Nats trailing by a run after three innings.

Update III: Roark's day ended after four innings, with four runs crossing the plate via nine singles and three walks. He needed 99 pitches (plus however many he threw in the cage during the rain delay) to complete those four innings. Not ideal.

So we're getting our first look at Yusmeiro Petit, new long man in the Nats bullpen, who immediately gave up a run in his first relief appearance. Justin Bour's leadoff double in the fifth (Harper nearly threw him out at second) set the stage for Phelps' first career RBI. Yes, Phelps, whom Mattingly let hit for himself with two outs and a man in scoring position. The pitcher singled up the middle, extending Miami's lead to 5-3.

And it remains 5-3 after five innings, the Nats unable to get anything going against Petit. They had two on with one out in the bottom of the fifth, but Zimmerman lofted a fly ball to right and Jayson Werth grounded out to second. The Nats challenged the call, saying Bour's tag missed Werth, but there was no conclusive replay to overturn it. That means Werth is now 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position today, 0-for-6 with three strikeouts in those situations for the season.

Update IV: Make it 6-4 Marlins after seven. They tacked on an insurance run in the top of the inning off Matt Belisle, making his Nationals debut. Werth wasn't able to make a sliding catch of Bour's sinking liner to left, playing it into a double. Hechavarria then drilled an RBI double to left-center.

The Nats did get the run right back in the bottom of the inning, thanks to Harper, who launched his second homer in three games. This one came off a 3-2 pitch from Bryan Morris and it ricocheted off the facade of the second deck down the right field line.

But Harper can't do it alone, and he hasn't gotten much help today. The Nats are now 1-for-11 with a staggering seven strikeouts with runners in scoring position in this game. Strikeouts in situations like that drive Dusty Baker nuts, and I would imagine he's going to have something to say about it after this one if his team doesn't rally.

Update V: The Nationals rallied from behind to win each of their first two games this season. They couldn't do it a third time, squandering a host of opportunities all evening during a 6-4 loss to the Marlins that spoiled their rain-soaked home opener.

Despite putting 14 men on base (six hits, eight walks), the Nats couldn't bring more than four of them home. Three of those came via Murphy's first-inning triple, the other on Harper's solo homer in the seventh. Overall, they went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

On the mound, Roark struggled in his season debut, giving up three quick runs in the top of the first, then another in the third after returning from the 85-minute rain delay. Petit and Belisle each allowed a run in relief, ultimately proving the margin of defeat.

After their dramatic win in Atlanta last night, then a late flight back to D.C. and a very long day at the park, the Nationals certainly will enjoy tomorrow's day off before returning to face the Marlins at 4:05 p.m. Saturday.

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