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Fantasy Baseball: The Nationals Pastime

As if we could start any other way. Clayton Kershaw  certainly made an impressive run  at today’s headline with a complete-game shutout to compliment his first dinger of the year and Chase Utley was no slouch either, falling just a double short of the cycle during his first opening day effort in three seasons. The spotlight in the 2013 season however, starts in our nation’s capital with the best young pitching talent in the league, backed by the best young hitting talent in the league.

National’s ace Stephen Strasburg was spectacular  allowing just three hits and striking out three over 7.0 shutout innings. He retired 19 straight after yielding a lead-off single to the incomparable Juan Pierre. Strasburg didn’t have his swing and miss stuff going Monday, but he did pound the strike zone, needing just 80 pitches (52 strikes) to get through seven frames.

Teammate Bryce Harper earned a standing ovation by his third plate appearance of the season after slugging a pair of solo home runs with his first two hacks of the year. Of course, it helps when you’r opponent in the insufferable Ricky Nolasco, but we cannot take anything away from the phenomenal 20-year old who finished 2-for-4 on the day. I’ll admit, Harper currently sits just outside my top-10 at the outfield position and while it is never too smart to be wildly reactionary over Opening Day stats, this is a case where I am seriously considering making the move.

Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg deals on Opening Day

There really isn’t any analysis here, the two young studs did what they will likely be doing for years to come. If you didn’t invest in these guys on draft day, good luck getting them now! Oh and Rafael Soriano looked nasty while grabbing his first save in D.C., striking out two in a hitless inning. It’s a nice setup for the veteran hurler who could easily push for 40 saves on a team with a strong rotation and rock-solid bullpen in front of him. Nats fans certainly have to feel better about their end-game situation than they did a year ago with Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez fighting over save chances. Alright, enough gushing over a hated division rival of my Philles…

Around the League

  • Cubs starter Jeff Samrdjiza came out of the gates firing with a stellar effort against the Pirates to earn his first win of the year. Sama struck out nine over eight scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and one walk. Yeah, it’s the Pirates (who still really don’t have much behind McCutch) but we’ve been calling Samardjiza a top-30 starter all spring so it is nice to see him get off on the right foot. The K-rate is for real people, and once he finds some consistency, this guy will be a beast.
  • The Cubs’ bullpen played out pretty much as predicted by most: Marmol gets save opp, Marmol allows (many) baserunners, Marmol is pulled, Fujikawa closes game. We left out the part where Cub’s manager Dale Sveum went to James Russell against a lefty batter with two-on and two-out in the ninth, but you get the point. Even still, Sveum is not quit ready to make a change and we will once again remind you of the ridiculous run Carlos Marmol went on down the stretch last year (2.02 ERA, 17-for-18 save conversions). Regardless, Fujikawa’s ownership rate is sure to rise above it’s current 42% so if you wan’t in on the Japanese import, now is the time to pounce.
  • The  Mets’ put up a nice all around effort against the always hittable Edinson Volquez, plating 11 runs including a Grand Slam for outfielder Colin Cowghill. David Wright swiped a pair of bases while going 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI while Ike Davis started his season with the ole’ Golden Sombrero (4 K’s) to go along with an 0-for-5 night. Shortstop Rueben Tejada went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Tejada is capable of posting a solid batting average with eligibility at both MI spots and remains a player to watch in deeper leagues.
  • The Rockies were certainly happy to see superstars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez finally back on the field together, and the pair combined to go 4-for-10 with three runs scored and three RBI. Each clubbed home runs in the effort, as did lead-off man Dexter Fowler, who collected three hits on the afternoon.
  • Brewers closer John Axford blew his first save opportunity of the season on that Fowler home run but Milwaukee cam out on top in 10. Axford was awfully shaky towards the beginning of last season and managed to regain his job and right the ship for the most part down the stretch. The Ax-man likely have quite a leash in the early going, but in case you were wondering Jim Henderson is the presumed handcuff there.
  • Angels catcher Chris Iannetta launched a home run on his way tot a 2-for-6 day to lead LA past the Reds’ 3-1. Though Iannetta was largely ignored in preseason drafts this year (3% owned), he did slug nine taters in just 221 at-bats least season. In an awfully intimidating lineup, the veteran backstop could provide some sneaky value this year for AL-only and two-catcher leagues.
  • Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit combined to handle the ninth inning duties in Detroit on Opening Day with Coke grabbing the last two outs and the save. Coke took over for Benoit with one out in the ninth to face Justin Morneau (lefty) and Ryan Doumit (switch) after Benoit pitched 1.1 scoreless  innings. For the foreseeable future, expect Benoit and Coke to alternate save chances depending on matchups.
  • Tiger’s starter Justin Verlander struck out seven and got the win. He’s good.
  • Some may fear an eventual breakdown of Chris Sale, but we are here to tell you: enjoy the ride. Sale continues to dominate major league hitters with strong debut effort in 2013–7.2 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. HE earned the win, backed by a Tyler Flowers’ homerun, the only score of the game.
  • Like Sale, James Shields had a quality open to 2013, hurling six strong inning of one run ball. he struck out six and walked none in his first effort for the Royals.
  • Carl Crawford and Mark Ellis collected a pair of hits apiece as Clayton Kershaw (9 IP, 4, H, 0 BB, 7 K) and Matt Cain (6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 8 K) dueled in the Los Angeles afternoon. The Dodgers came out on top, but the defending Champs were certainly encouraged by Cain’s performance and a 2-for-4 effort from Pablo Sandoval (elbow) who was questionable leading up to the contest.
  • Phillies’ starter Cole Hamels became the first of what will be many starting pitchers to struggle at the hand of the Atlanta Braves offense. The gopher ball in particular, crushed the Phil’s lefty as he allowed three long balls (Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, Justin Upton) on the evening. Uggla’s strong start to the year is of particular interest to us as we’ve been singing the second sacker’s praises all spring  Apparently not all of you listened and Uggla is temporarily available in just over 20% of standard leagues. Time to fix that.
  • Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley also made headlines on opening day, falling just a double shy of the cycle while tormenting Tim Hudson all evening (3-for-4, 2 R, 3 RBI, 3B, HR). Since altering his physical training regimen late in the spring of 2012, Utley has been a different player on the field… well, part of it is that he’s just been on the field. In his first Opening Day since 2010, Chase gave hope that a 150 game 20/20 season remains in reach.
  • Cardinals’ starter Adam Wainwright breezed through the first few innings in Monday’s season opener before quickly unraveling. He did manage to registed six strikeouts without a walk, but also yielded 11 hits and four runs (three earned) over 6.0 innings pitched. Dimaondbacks starter Ian Kennedy was quality in opposition and grabbed the win–7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K.
  • Gerardo Parra slashed three triples while going 4-for-5 out of the lead-off spot. Parra is perhaps the main beneficiary of the Adam Eaton injury as he’s likely to see a full compliment of at-bats for the foreseeable future.
  • King Felix Hernandez joined the many aces who were dealing Tuesday, tossing 7.2 innings pitched with eight strikeouts and one walk. Felix allowed just three hits and nary a run while dominating the Athletics.
  • A’s starter Brett Anderson was solid on the other end, striking out the first four batters he faced on his way to a quality start. Anderson did walk four on the afternoon and was hung with the L despite a solid final line–7.o IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 K.

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