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Wang makes first start of season for Nats

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Wang makes first start of season for Nats

MIAMI -- It's been eight months since Chien-Ming Wang last started a game for the Nationals, a 4-3 victory over the Braves in which the veteran right-hander allowed just one run over six innings. The Nats re-signed Wang for 4 million shortly after the season ended and expected him to open 2012 in their starting rotation.

Then Wang suffered a scary-looking hamstring injury during spring training, and those plans had to be revised. He finally returned from the disabled list last week in Philadelphia, made a long relief appearance Friday in Atlanta and tonight will make his much anticipated first start of the season in Miami.

Wang will be opposed by Josh Johnson, the designated ace of the Marlins staff who has pitched like anything but an ace so far this year (2-3, 4.87 ERA). On the other hand, Johnson has never lost to the Nationals in 14 career starts (7-0, 3.14 ERA).

Meanwhile, one night after doubling in his first career at-bat, Jhonatan Solano makes his debut behind the plate. Sadly, brother Donovan is not in Miami's lineup. Updates and analysis to come from Marlins Park (where it's currently pouring, with the roof wide open)...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at MIAMI MARLINS
Where: Marlins Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 186
Weather: Indoors

NATIONALS (29-20)
LF Steve Lombardozzi
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Roger Bernadina
C Jhonatan Solano
RHP Chien-Ming Wang

MARLINS (28-22)
SS Jose Reyes
2B Omar Infante
3B Hanley Ramirez
RF Giancarlo Stanton
1B Logan Morrison
CF Bryan Petersen
C John Buck
LF Chris Coghlan
RHP Josh Johnson

UMPIRES
HP James Hoye, 1B Jim Joyce (cc), 2B Jim Reynolds, 3B Dan Iassogna

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Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year

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Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

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