- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

The Washington Nationals will play host to the Florida Marlins on April 2, according to baseball’s tentative schedule, marking the first time the club will open a season at home since it relocated to the District.

Baseball sources confirmed yesterday that the Nationals and Marlins will meet on Opening Day, with the two teams taking the following day off before finishing the three-game series April 4-5. The Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians will come to RFK Stadium for interleague series.

Washington opened both the 2005 and 2006 seasons on the road, something of a sore spot for players and fans alike, particularly those who remembered the Senators traditionally holding the season opener in the nation’s capital one day before the rest of the American League began play, with the president often throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

Don’t expect home openers to become an annual tradition again, though. The Nationals and Orioles are likely to rotate playing host to an Opening Day. Because baseball considers Washington and Baltimore one media market, the two teams rarely play at home at the same time. The Orioles are likely to open at home in 2008, giving the Nationals a little extra time to complete construction of their new ballpark.

Baltimore and Washington again will play six regular season games against each other next season, three at RFK and three at Camden Yards. The National League East is scheduled to face the American League Central in interleague play, but the Nationals will face only three Central foes in 2007: the Tigers and Indians at home and the Minnesota Twins on the road.

Washington’s other interleague road series will be against the Blue Jays, the 11th straight season the franchise has played at Toronto.

First career save

Chad Cordero is entrenched as the Nationals closer, but Jon Rauch did just fine in that role yesterday.

After pitching a combined three innings in Saturday’s day/night doubleheader, Cordero was unavailable for the series finale with the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the Nationals leading 5-3 entering the ninth, manager Frank Robinson turned to Rauch to finish it.

The 6-foot-11 right-hander pitched a perfect inning and earned his first career save in his 105th major league appearance.

“Big shoes to fill with Chief, one of the best closers in the game,” Rauch said. “You just hope to go out there and do your job so [the team] can win the ballgame.”

What a catch

In the third inning, newly acquired center fielder Nook Logan made a spectacular diving catch in the left-field gap, robbing Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew of an extra-base hit.

With one out, Drew ripped a Tony Armas pitch into the alley. Logan, who was shaded more to the right-field side, mounted an angled run on the ball. At just the right moment when going back, Logan leapt and made a backhanded, diving catch on a ball that was flying toward the warning track.

“I don’t know, I can’t explain it. I see it and try to go get it,” Logan said of his highlight-reel catch.

Mock’s surgery

Right-handed pitching prospect Garrett Mock, one of two pitchers acquired from the Diamondbacks in the Livan Hernandez deal, underwent left knee surgery Saturday to remove a lesion from his patella tendon.

Nationals primary physician Ben Shaffer performed the procedure. A club spokeman said Mock should be ready for spring training. The Nationals were aware of Mock’s knee problems when they traded for him on Aug. 7. The Nationals assigned Mock to Class AA Harrisburg, where he went 0-4 with a 10.26 ERA in four starts.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

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