Blake Treinen won the three-man battle in spring to become the Nationals closer. After the front office swung and missed on two studded closers, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon, the team was forced to shift its search within the organization. Out of the battle rose Treinen, a choice more so of general manager Mike Rizzo than skipper Dusty Baker, beating out Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley. The 28-year old had never close before in the big leagues.
Treinen appears to have welcomed the tall order, holding the Nationals’ chances of repeating as NL East Division champions and moving beyond the NLDS on his arm. In Monday’s Opening Day contest against the Miami Marlins, Treinen got his number called to closer out a victory for the Nationals. His first act was a daunting task trying to retire the middle of the Marlins’ order, which features rocket launchers Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Bour, and Marcell Ozuna.
Treinen not once looked fret. He faced the reigning MLB All-Star Home Run Derby champion straight up. He got ahead in the count 0-2 before throwing a ball. Then he got Stanton to pop out in foul territory for the first out. While impressive, his best sequence occurred with the next batter, Bour.
Treinen got behind 3-0 and all seemed destined for the youngster to rattle away a rally. Instead he buckled down, He got a free strike to make it 3-1. Then he got Bour to swing for strike two to make it a full count. Then the new closer earned his stripes, throwing a wicked slider that got Bour swinging for out number two.
— Pitcher List (@ThePitcherList) April 3, 2017
The entire at-bat showed the confidence and the mental psych of Treinen. Catcher Matt Wieters says Treinen shook to the 3-2 slider.
Matt Wieters said Blake Treinen shook to the 3-2 slider to Justin Bour. Wanted to throw it. Shows some…uh…guts.
— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) April 3, 2017
His work was not done as Ozuna stepped in the batter’s box. Treinen got ahead 0-2. Ozuna being the battle-tested batter, fought off the next four pitches, fouling off two and taking another two for balls. 2-2 was the count when Treinen painted the inside corner to get Ozuna looking to end the game.
It was just one of many to go, but any doubts and concerns were laid to rest at least momentarily. The Nationals flexed their muscles late in the game after falling behind 2-0 early. Stephen Strasburg pitched well getting the win, going seven innings allowing two runs off six hits, striking out three on 85 pitches.
Bryce Harper got Washington on the board with a solo blast in the sixth. It was his fifth Opening Day home run in five Opening Day games. Adam Lind then joined the fun with a pinch-hit two-run blast in the seventh off Marlins reliever David Phelps. Daniel Murphy, last season’s team MVP, drove in newly acquired Adam Eaton in eighth with an RBI-single to put the Nationals ahead 4-2. But it was Treinen who had the sequence of the game, facing the heart of Miami’s order and dominating them to send a sellout crowd of 42,744 home happy.
It’s just the beginning and the Nationals have a long way to go, especially Treinen. However, they could not have asked for a better start to their 2017 season. They flexed their offensive muscle, got a solid outing from one of its two aces without throwing a walk. And saw some of their closer’s potential tapped.