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Archive for Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Nationals want first ‘W’

Washington has opener out of way

April 6, 2005

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— Now the Washington Nationals want Win No. 1.

Relieved to be done with Game No. 1 in Nationals history, they can concentrate on doing their jobs in the 1 1/2 weeks until all the hoopla returns for their home opener.

"Opening day is always exciting, no matter if you're in the big leagues 20 years or one year," second baseman Jose Vidro said while icing his surgically repaired right knee after the season-opener at Philadelphia. "But it's good the first one's out of the way."

The players had Tuesday off, and it was a chance to rest after five games across five cities in five days. That stretch included the Nationals' first game -- albeit an exhibition -- at their new home, RFK Stadium, and their first regular-season game, an 8-4 loss Monday at Philadelphia.

"Any day you get a day off is a good thing," said outfielder Brad Wilkerson, who led off Monday's game with a bloop single for the first hit in Nationals history. "We've got 161 to go, and we'll come out Wednesday and play hard."

The team knows it's important not to stumble out of the gate too much. Not only are the first nine games on the road, but they also all come against fellow NL East members Philadelphia, Florida and Atlanta -- three of the four teams that finished ahead of the Montreal Expos last season.

"You always want to get off to a good start. Opening on the road against division rivals, you really want to get off to a good start," manager Frank Robinson said. "We can get buried real quick."

The Nationals have to hope that their first game since leaving Montreal was not a harbinger of things to come. Staff ace Livan Hernandez didn't make it through the fifth inning Monday and got knocked around for seven runs; the offense produced 14 hits, but 12 were singles; 10 runners were left on base.

On the other hand, the team had been worried about its depth, but Terrmel Sledge stepped in for injured starting outfielder Ryan Church and produced a home run and three RBIs, pinch-hitter J.J. Davis rapped a single, and the bullpen limited the Phillies to one run over 31/3 innings.

"I think this team is better than when we took over. We have a long way to go to get to where we want to get to, but we're going in the right direction," said general manager Jim Bowden, who delivered a pep talk during a closed-door clubhouse meeting with players before Monday's game.

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