- The Washington Times - Monday, April 5, 2010

With the optimism that each club carries into Opening Day, the Nationals were hoping to get off to a good start to the 2010 season, even with the two-time National League champions in town and their new ace on the hill.

The gorgeous 78-degree afternoon started off well enough for Washington, jumping out to an early lead thanks to Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI double off the center-field fence in the bottom of the first.

But after three good innings, things came unglued quickly for Nats’ starter John Lannan in the fourth. He allowed a walk and four consecutive hits — including a two-run homer by Ryan Howard. The bullpen surrendered another six runs in relief as Washington was handed a 11-1 drubbing by Philadelphia in front of a sellout crowd of 41,290 — many of which were cheering for the Phillies.

Facing new Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who was acquired from Toronto in the off-season, the Nationals only were able to put together six hits against the starter. The former American League Cy Young winner bounced back from a shaky start to the contest to strike out nine Washington batters in seven innings of work and cruise to his first win as a Phillie.

Following the presidential first pitch — a high and outside pitch to Zimmerman — the Nats looked to open the season on a bright note after back-to-back 100-loss campaigns.

Jimmy Rollins opened the game by singling to left field, but Lannan got Placido Polanco to fly out to right for the first out, and Chase Utley popped up to center. Rollins stole second with Ryan Howard at the plate, and although Ian Desmond bobbled a grounder from Howard after Desmond’s throw to Dunn was late, Dunn caught Rollins trying to take home and was tagged out to end the Phillies’ threat.

Nyjer Morgan opened the Nationals’ season at the plate with a slow-rolling single, then promptly stole second. Halladay struck out Willie Harris, but gave up a long drive to center field that went off the top of the wall for a double to score Morgan. Halladay struck out Adam Dunn looking and, after walking Josh Willingham with a 3-2 count, Adam Kennedy ended the inning with a soft liner to second.

Lannan was good for his first three innings for the Nats, only allowing two hits against the dangerous Phillies lineup. But walking the leadoff batter in the top of the fourth and then yielding a homer to Howard caused the left-hander to come unglued quickly.

Utley opened the frame with a walk, and then Howard made Lannan pay with a two-run homer to the middle deck just above the Nationals’ bullpen.

Following the blast, Werth got on with a single, and Ibanez promptly brought him around to third. Shane Victorino drove in the run with a single to left and Philadelphia’s fourth straight hit without recording an out.

Lannan finally got Carlos Ruiz to fly out to right, but Halladay then bunted in the fourth run of the inning after Lannan couldn’t quite handle a dribbler back to Rodriguez.

“It was just a bang-bang play — I wasnt really thinking about it,” Lannan said. “I didnt really have time to. … Thats one out I could have definitely used.”

Rollins walked to load the bases back up, and Polanco sacraficed to left field to plate the fifh run of the frame. Utley, in his second at-bat of the fourth, then singled in another run before Lannan was pulled with two out in the fourth, allowing five earned runs and seven hits in just 3⅔ innings of work on the afternoon.

“I thought he was throwing the ball well … but if you fall behind a couple of guys or you put somebody on in front of some of those big hitters, theyve got a chance to get you,” Riggleman said. It just wasn’t John’s day. But he gave us a good effort. And he’s going to be better next time.”

Jesse English — making his major league debut — finally put an end to the inning by getting Howard to ground out to second, but with the Phillies sending up 10 batters to the plate and recording five runs. Willingham opened the bottom of the fourth with a single, but the Nats couldn’t do anything with the runner.

Philadelphia added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth, as Carlos Ruiz walked, then Rollins brought him around with a triple off of Miguel Batista. Polanco brought in Rollins with a single past Desmond.

The Phils then loaded the bases in the top of the seventh thanks to a pair of walks and a single, and Poloanco unloaded a grand slam right into the Phillies’ bullpen to push the lead to 11-1.

Kennedy and Rodriguez singled in the bottom of the seventh, but Halladay rung up Desmond and then got pinch-hitter Cristian Guzman to ground out to end the threat.

Morgan hit a double to open the eighth, and was moved over to third on a Harris fly ball. With a chance to pick up his second RBI, Zimmerman struck out. After Dunn walked, Willingham grounded out.

When asked afterwards about the start to the day with the president in the house, Riggleman jokingly said “that’s like asking Mrs. Lincoln, ‘How was the play?’”

No doubt that the team that wanted to show it wasn’t the same ballclub that finished last overall in the majors two years running, but it certainly was an ugly start.

“People are going to say what they want,” Harris said. “We can’t really worry about that. We got to concentrate on the 25 guys that are in this locker room. We got to concentrate on sticking together, even if we do get out to a bad start.”

“People are going to say what they want,” Nationals right fielder Willie Harris said. “We can’t really worry about that. We got to concentrate on the 25 guys that are in this locker room. We got to concentrate on sticking together, even if we do get out to a bad start.”

“We lost,” Desmond, who struggled in his first Opening Day start at short. “One team wins. One team loses. We got 161 games to go. … Just because we lost one game 11-1, it is just like losing 2-1, it doesn’t really matter.”

Washington will look to rebound Wednesday night when they send newly-acquired Jason Marquis, who struggled in spring training, to the mound to face left-hander Cole Hamels at Nationals Park.

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