Aug 30, 2015, 4:42 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals came out flat on Sunday afternoon against the Marlins and went down early as Stephen Strasburg ran into trouble in the first inning. For the first half of the afternoon, it looked like they were going to stumble their way into St. Louis for a big series beginning on Monday.
But in the fifth inning they woke up, both at the plate and on the mound, and came away with a convincing 7-4 victory over the Marlins, one that handed them their fourth consecutive series win, something they had not done since May 27.
Strasburg was ineffective from the start, but the Nats bullpen pitched well after taking over in the fifth. Doug Fister gave them two scoreless innings before Felipe Rivero, Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon closed out the final three frames.
Jayson Werth and Clint Robinson homered. Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper had RBI singles. Werth also had an RBI double.
Desmond went 1-for-1 with three walks. That was just the second time in his career he’s walked three times in a game (July 22, 2011). He walked only three times in the entire month of June.
Michael Taylor started for the first time since leaving Thursday’s game with a right knee contusion. He went 2-for-4 with two runs. He also added a very nice catch in center field to end the top of the sixth, one that again put him in close proximity to the wall. This time, however, he avoided hard contact and slowed up at the warning track.
The win moved the Nats to 66-63 on the season and gave them their sixth victory in their last eight games. The Mets also won, though, so the Nationals did not gain any ground in the NL East. The deficit remains at 5 1/2 games.
The Nationals finished this homestand 6-3 against the Brewers, Padres and Marlins. That is a marked improvement from the 3-4 they went against the Diamondbacks and Rockies the last time they were in Washington (Aug. 3-9).
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The fifth inning represented a breakthrough for the Nats after a tough first half to the game that saw Strasburg pitch terribly and their offense struggle against Marlins’ starter Brad Hand.
It all started with a bloop single to center field by Taylor. Doug Fister then bunted Taylor to second before Werth drilled a double to the corner in left field. That made it a 4-3 game.
Harper scored Werth two at-bats later on a single to left field. And two at-bats after that, Desmond singled to center field to make it 5-4 Nats.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Strasburg had been dominant since he returned from the disabled list on Aug. 8 and over the last few weeks was the Nationals’ most reliable pitcher by a longshot. But that trend did not continue on Sunday, as the right-hander labored through four innings and was removed after only 60 pitches thrown.
Strasburg ran into trouble early with two baserunners before he even recorded an out in the first inning. Those were Dee Gordon, who bunted, and Ichiro Suzuki, who doubled. Both were then brought home on a three-run homer by Juston Bour. Bour homered in consecutive days and for the eighth time in 14 career games against the Nats.
Strasburg also allowed a homer to Derek Dietrich in the fourth inning. He finished with seven hits, no walks and three strikeouts in four innings. It was Strasburg’s shortest outing since he was removed due to injury on July 4.
KEY STAT: Werth is now 13-for-40 with five doubles, two homers, seven RBI and six walks in 10 games hitting in the leadoff spot this season.
UP NEXT: The Nationals travel to St. Louis to take on the MLB-best St. Louis Cardinals. The first game will pit Gio Gonzalez (9-7, 4.11) against John Lackey (11-8, 2.92). Needless to say, it will be a big three days for the Nats.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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