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Reyes wins first battle with Strasburg as Marlins beat Nationals 3-0

JUPITER -- Even though they've played in the same division each of the past two seasons, Jose Reyes and Stephen Strasburg had never faced each other before Friday night.

It didn't take long for the Marlins new shortstop to get a taste of the kind of heat the 23-year old right-hander can unleash.

"The first pitch of the game he threw me was 97 [miles per hour]," Reyes said. "I said 'Oh man, I better open my eyes."

After Reyes grounded out to first in his first at-bat, he got the better of Strasburg in their second meeting. After fouling off a few pitches with two strikes, Reyes laced a line-drive triple to center field that scored Bryan Petersen with the Marlins' first run in a 3-0 win over the Nationals.

It was the kind of at-bat manager Ozzie Guillen said earned Reyes a 6-year, $106 million contract from the Marlins in the off-season.

"Jose makes everybody on this ballclub better by the way he goes about his business," Guillen said.

"I don't know how it was in the past, but Jose brought his enthusiasm, his love for the game. Like today, the big at-bat he got. He got Strasburg down. Fight, fight, fight, then boom -- triple. That gets any team going, the momentum going forward. That's contagious. And I think that's a good thing for this ballclub."

As for Strasburg, who figures to be a thorn in the Marlins side for a long time, he pitched three innings, giving up three hits and two earned runs, a walk and two strikeouts. He topped out at 98 miles per hour on a few pitches according to scouts with radar guns (Roger Dean Stadium announced one Strasburg heater to Giancarlo Stanton at 103 mph).

"He looked pretty good tonight," Guillen said. "But Jose was better."

REYES, INFANTE WORKING TO LEARN EACH OTHER: They've only been working together for three weeks, but so far the Marlins' new double-play tandem of Reyes and second baseman Omar Infante looks like a good one.

Friday was the first time since spring training games began on Monday that the entire starting infield got to play together. Reyes and Infante turned one double play together when Infante caught a routine grounder in the fifth inning and flipped to Reyes who fired to first to get Rick Ankiel out in time.

Infante said Reyes has a stronger arm than Hanley Ramirez did at short and he's been getting used to receiving the ball quicker.

"He's got a good arm and his range will help us out a lot," Infante said. "He can get to a lot of balls up the middle and in the hole. The most important thing is we're practicing every day and getting a lot of ground balls hit to us."

Reyes said as long as he and Infante continue to communicate they shouldn't have any problems.

"He's one of the best second basemen in the game," Reyes said. "Now, that I'm playing with him he's going to make me an even better shortstop. The more games we play the more comfortable we're going to feel."

GUILLEN HAPPY WITH LEBLANC: Wade LeBlanc had another stellar performance Friday, tossing four scoreless innings, striking out five and giving up just one hit against the Nationals.

Although LeBlanc probably won't make the rotation (he has an option to head down to the minors), Guillen likes that LeBlanc is giving him something to think about.

"I love guys that do that in spring training because they make my job, our job very tough," Guillen said. "I love it when guys go out there and perform, open up some people's eyes, give you something to think about. He threw the ball very well. The most important thing is the strikes. He's on top of his game right now."

LINEUP FOR SATURDAY VS. CARDINALS: 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. John Buck DH, 4. Austin Kearns RF, 5. Aaron Rowand CF, 6. Terry Tiffee 1B, 7. Donnie Murphy 3B, 8. Scott Cousins LF, 9. Brett Hayes C. P Josh Johnson

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