WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have been one of the most successful franchises in the Majors during the past five seasons, but their challenge in the 2017 season is to make the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. Washington returns 20 of 25 players from its roster at the end of 2016, but they added a few key pieces in the offseason, including Adam Lind to its bench.
And in his first at-bat as a National on Monday, Lind delivered a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the seventh inning that ended in a curtain call in front of a delighted sellout crowd of 42,744 at Nationals Park. Lind's home run combined with an earlier solo home run from Bryce Harper and a strong start from Stephen Strasburg to lead the Nationals to a 4-2 victory against the Marlins on Opening Day.
"Obviously, you'd like to be set up if you had a couple of them, honestly," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "But I think we're just not set up like that. And I've seen other teams do without it. Some pretty good left-handed hitters over there. We got some of them out. And then a couple of them got us. It's going to be what we're going to have to deal with, and just figure out how we're going to get through those parts of the lineup."
Strasburg was efficient in seven innings during his fourth Opening Day start. The Marlins rallied for a pair of runs in the fourth inning, the first coming on a run-scoring double from Giancarlo Stanton, who later scored on an RBI single from Marcell Ozuna. Miami also received a solid outing from Edinson Volquez, who struck out six and allowed four hits in five scoreless innings.
But it was not enough to defeat the Nationals, who tacked on an insurance run in the eighth inning before Blake Treinen locked down the ninth inning for his first save since being named the team's closer last week.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Harper homers again on Opening Day: The season's first game has become one of Harper's favorite days, with another home run Monday bringing his total to five in his career, the most among active players. No player in MLB history has homered more times on Opening Day before the age of 25.
"Just trying to make some stuff happen," Harper said. "We had opportunities in the first five innings to really get stuff going and get it done."
It was a perfect way to begin the year for Harper, trying to bounce back from a down year in 2016.
Volquez settles with strikeouts: A year ago with the Royals, Volquez averaged 7.72 strikeouts per nine innings. The right-hander collected three straight, when he needed them, in the first inning. The Nationals threatened to break things open early when Trea Turner doubled to lead off the first and Adam Eaton walked. But Volquez struck out Harper. After a double steal, Volquez fanned Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman to escape unharmed.
"That was good because I was up and down a little bit with the first two batters, and I was able to make the adjustment and make better pitches with the next three guys," Volquez said.
During the strikeout stretch, catcher J.T. Realmuto made a mound visit that really seemed to dial Volquez in, and the results showed.
"That was something I cannot tell you right now," Volquez said of his meeting. "That's between me and him. We work on it. We are good. We're on the same page. We got some tricks for that. I'm not allowed to say it on camera."
"We've talked about adding on. Big G [Stanton] just misses one the next inning. Ozuna just missed one. We didn't get any kind of rally after that. But that catch [by Harper on Christian Yelich] obviously is one of those parts of the game where, if that ball drops, you know you've got two more runs right there." -- Mattingly, on Harper running into the wall and robbing Yelich of extra bases with two outs in the fifth inning. The Marlins didn't have a baserunner the rest of the game, with their final 13 retired.
"I don't even know what happened. You know, you wish you could hold onto it for a lifetime, but it goes by and you don't even realize what happened." -- Lind, on his homer
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Volquez was 2-for-2 at the plate off Strasburg. Those were the 33-year-old's first hits since Sept. 25, 2014, when he was with the Pirates facing the Braves. Volquez, who was with the Royals in the American League the past two years, entered the day 23-for-282 (.082) in his career. He was 2-for-53 in '14. He's already matched that season hits total.
WHAT'S NEXT Marlins:Dan Straily, acquired from the Reds in January, impressed so much in Spring Training that he was tabbed the No. 2 starter. The right-hander was 14-8 with a 3.76 ERA last year in Cincinnati. He faced the Nationals twice, with a 3.21 ERA in 14 innings, and he'll face them again Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Nationals:Tanner Roark will make his 2017 debut Wednesday against the Marlins, trying to build off a breakout 2016 season and strong performance in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Roark led Nationals starters with a 2.83 ERA last season, tossed a career-high 210 innings and posted 5.5 wins above replacement, according to baseball-reference.com.