Ian Desmond’s ninth inning shot to right field scored Brett Carroll with the go ahead run, and the Washington Nationals went on to beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 on Opening Day at Wrigley Field. With the wind blowing in, this was a pitchers’ tussle, with both Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth launching bombs that, on any other day, would have gone out of the park. But the game was a beaut, with the Nationals notching their first victory, and their first come-from-behind victory of the season.
If the Cubs had won the squeaker, Ryan Dempster would have undoubtedly garnered all the headlines, taming the Nationals with 7.2 innings of two hit, ten strikeout baseball. And while Washington ace phenom Stephen Strasburg piched well, Dempster outdueled him through seven. Washington’s hitters finally stood up, waiting out pitches from reliever Kerry Wood, and tying the game on three successive walks (to Zimmerman, LaRoche and Werth — in the 8th) , allowing uber set-up man Tyler Clippard to notch the win and closer Brad Lidge to nail down the save.
Surprisingly, it was Ian Desmond who provided the offense for the Nationals, going 3-5 and getting the game winning RBI. But Adam LaRoche struggled against Dempster, whiffing three times in three at bats (nailing down his bad-for-April tag), and leaving five on base. Chad Tracy came off the bench to provide a solid ninth inning at-bat, stroking a double into right field to set up the winning run. The Nats are happy with the win (of course), but they dodged a bullet. A sharply hit grounder in the ninth might have scored Chicago’s Joe Mather, but Ryan Zimmerman got him at the plate. It was all Lidge then, as he put down Marlon Byrd on strikes.