Braves Defeat Nationals on Opening Day

Anthony Amobi | 4/7/2011, 8:34 a.m.
During Washington Nationals Opening Day action on Thursday, March 31, Nationals left fielder Michael Morse is late touching home plate as the ball makes it into the glove of Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. The Braves defeated the Na-tionals 2-0 in front of 39,055 at Nationals Park in Southeast. Photo by John E. DeFreitas  

For fans of the Washington Nationals - or any of the 29 other teams in Major League Baseball - Opening Day represents the unofficial start of spring for baseball fans.

The Nationals started their seventh season in Washington against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, March 31.

It turned out to be a gloomy, rainy and cold day outside with conditions befitting a football game in December; however, that didn't deter the crowd of 39,055 who showed up at Nationals Park in Southeast to watch America's favorite pastime.

Before the game, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) was booed loudly as he took to the field to say "Play Ball."

Since Gray, 68, assumed office in January, he's been involved in a number of controversies.

In the past, several prominent politicians have been booed throwing out the first pitch of the season in Washington.

Former President George W. Bush heard some boos in both 2005 and 2008. Also, President Barack Obama heard them last year too.

Former Mayor Adrian Fenty faced the boo-birds as well.

However, there seemed to be a lot of anger targeted at Gray based on the crowd's reaction at Nationals Park.

Tom Bridge, 31, who lives in Northwest and who is a small business owner, weighed in on Gray and the negative reaction from the crowd.

"I wasn't surprised to hear all the boos. The last few months, it seems as if there's been scandal after scandal from the Mayor's Office and the Chairman's Office."

"It's been frustrating as a resident to see them line up, one after the other," he said.

Despite the miserable weather outdoors and chilly political climate, fans remained in very good spirits and hoped for a victory in their home opener. Sadly, that would not happen as the Nationals lost to the Braves, 2-0.

A lot of fans waited for nearly six months for this day to come. They consider Opening Day to be a holiday or an important annual celebration, similar to an anniversary.

For many, it's the start of a New Year.

It's a day where hope is renewed and fans wish that their team starts off the season on a winning note.

However, reality soon sets in.

If you've never attended an Opening Day in Washington or Baltimore, imagine the pageantry - the American flag spread out in center field and both the Nationals and Braves players being introduced as the crowd roars.

Well, Opening Day doesn't quite have the same feel as the Super Bowl, or the NBA Finals, but it's not an ordinary game in a long season.

Last year at Nationals Park on Opening Day, President Obama threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the start of the ball game; however, this year he declined to do because of other issues.

Instead, a representative from the each branch of the Armed Forces - the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard - threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

The Nationals got a great effort from starting pitcher Livan Hernandez, who started his fourth Opening Day for the franchise. Hernandez, 36, put forth a good effort, but would take the loss as he pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on four hits.

He would give up an RBI-single to Braves catcher Brian McCann in the first inning and then a solo home run to Jason Heyward - the reigning National League Rookie of the Year - in the second inning.

That would be all the scoring the Braves would need as their starting pitcher, Derek Lowe, kept the Nationals off the scoreboard for 5 1/3 in-nings for his first win of the season. After Lowe left the game, their bullpen would keep the shutout going and reliever Craig Kimbrel would earn his first save of the season by pitching a scoreless ninth inning.

Rookie Danny Espinosa had two hits for Washington: meanwhile, one of the newest additions to the team, Jayson Werth, went 1-for-4.

At the end of the game, Nationals fans didn't see a win; however, there was nowhere else they wanted to be on Thursday afternoon.

It's only the beginning of a long six month journey for the Nationals and time will tell if they are a pretender or a contender.

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