‘It’s crazy how good it feels’: After week of COVID-19 misery, Washington Nationals open with dramatic Juan Soto walk-off

WASHINGTON — Their opening day, already delayed five days, began with a meet-and-greet between longtime ace Max Scherzer and recently signed catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

It ended with manager Davey Martinez lifting his franchise player, Juan Soto, off the ground in joy, acting for a moment like he did not want to let go.

Tuesday afternoon, the Washington Nationals finally got to play baseball, last of 30 major league teams to take the field and the only one to reside in what can only be described as the big leagues’ middle place.

It is no longer 2019 – yet due to the fact a global pandemic prevented their fans from seeing a banner fly high above Nationals Park, they raised another pregame toast to their first World Series championship team.

It is no longer 2020 – yet COVID-19, while beaten down, is not yet out, and so four Nationals who have tested positive for the coronavirus and seven more flagged for contact tracing were nowhere near the ballpark.

It is 2021, and Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber are supposed to represent a turning of the page from a growing-fuzzy title run and into a five-way fight for the National League East.

Instead, they are in the group of stalwart vets confined to the sidelines, 11 temps taking their place, five pressed into service against the reigning division champion Atlanta Braves.

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