There are many things the Miami Marlins could be lacking this season, and one of them is a margin for error. Can't throw a curveball to Bryce Harper and not expect him to swing. Can't get two men on base against Stephen Strasburg and commit a baserunning error.
Not the sort of mistake Mike Redmond needed to see in his managerial debut.
The low-budget, low-expectation Marlins opened their season Monday with a 2-0 loss to the Washington Nationals, who got two home runs from reigning NL Rookie of the Year Harper and seven innings from ace right-hander Strasburg.
Ricky Nolasco (0-1) pitched about as well as he could — except for a 73-mph curve to Harper in the first inning and an 85-mph slider in the fourth. Both wound up in the seats beyond right-center, prompting a few "M-V-P!" chants from the sellout crowd.
"One-oh curveball. I really wasn't expecting him to swing, but when you throw it right down the middle like that, belt-high," Nolasco said with a shrug.
Nolasco stymied the rest of the Nationals' order, striking out Ryan Zimmerman three times and keeping Jayson Werth (0 for 4) and Adam LaRoche (0 for 3) off the bases as well. The right-hander worked six innings, allowing three hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
But then there was Harper.
"The kid's locked in. He had a good spring," Nolasco said. "Didn't make the best pitches to him, and he didn't miss 'em."
The Marlins managed only three hits off Strasburg (1-0), but there were chances to score. Juan Pierre was on third in the top of the first when Placido Polanco hit a grounder not quite enough toward the hole. Zimmerman moved to his left from third base and came up with the ball.
And, in the seventh, with runners at the corners, Polanco got caught in a rundown between first and second on a fly to left. The ball was too shallow to score Giancarlo Stanton from third, yet Polanco took off because he saw the throw sail over the cutoff man.
The throw — from Harper, of all people — rocketed to catcher Wilson Ramos on the fly, and Polanco was stranded far from safety. Stanton then tried to score, so the rally-killing, inning-ending double play went down in the books as 7-2-3-4-2.
"Once you tag from first base, you read the ball, right?" Polanco said. "If it's a high throw, you go. If it's a low throw, you come back. It was a high throw, and I kept going."
A tough break, Redmond said.
"That's an opportunity," Redmond said. "We gave them an extra out there. ... We only had three hits, so anytime you are in a 2-0 game and you make a mistake, it's going to be magnified."
Back in Little Havana, Marlins fan Colleen Farnum said that the hype, excitement and energy fans felt for the team last season was gone for the Fish's road opener Monday.
“The reality is I don’t really know who our team is, and maybe I should I Google that real quick," she said outside Marlins Park.
Clair Moreno, who lives near the ballpark, said that after all of the high expectations in 2012 only one good thing came out of the stadium deal.
“Since there’s not enough parking for the visitors most people are parking around by the residents. Which definitely benefits them because they get some cash,” she said.
Before the game, the trade-depleted Marlins witnessed a sight they can't realistically expect to replicate at Marlins Park next season. The various pregame ceremonies lasted nearly an hour as the Nationals celebrated their 98-win 2012 by unveiling a sign atop the outfield scoreboard that proclaims them as the "NL East Division Champions." They also honored Harper for his rookie honor, Davey Johnson for his NL Manager of the Year award, and their recipients of Gold Glove and Silver Slugger trophies.
A regular-season Nationals Park-record crowd of 45,274 roared during player introductions and kept on clapping and yelling through the game.
"I was telling the kids that's what you get when you win," said the 35-year-old Pierre, who won a World Series with the Marlins in 2003. "Fans, the scoreboard, all that stuff. You've got to sit and watch it, so I think it was good for us to have to sit and watch it, and hopefully we can be doing something like that."
"I could do without seeing all of it," Pierre added. "But you remember that stuff, and hopefully you work to get an opening day like that where you can be celebrating something on the other side."
NOTES: Nolasco dominated in his last two starts against the Nationals last year, with two complete-game shutouts in Marlins victories. "That team over there is not as bad as everyone thinks they are," Zimmerman said. "Ricky is a really good pitcher. We've had trouble with him in the past." ... Before the game, Redmond spoke of well-wishing text messages he had received and tried to put his best spin on the team. "We're trying to win as many ballgames as we can, but we've got to focus on development," the manager said. "We've got a lot of young guys. We've got a lot of young guys that we've got to get better." ... On injured RHPs Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez, both on the disabled list because of shoulder inflammation, Redman said it will "probably a few weeks before those guys are built back up and ready for game action."
– NBC 6's David Jeannot contributed reporting from Little Havana.