Sep 19, 2015, 6:51 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: For the third straight day, the Nationals dug themselves into a 2-0 hole against the Marlins after one inning. But for the second straight day, they managed to dig themselves back out of that hole and emerge victorious.
With a 3-run rally in the fifth that included a home run by Tyler Moore and clutch at-bats by Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond, the Nationals took the lead off Marlins starter Brad Hand. Then with a 2-run homer by Harper (his 41st of the season) in the seventh, they expanded that lead and gave their bullpen some cushion.
It looked like that relief corps might need the extra cushion after rookie Sammy Solis gave up two singles to open the eighth. But Blake Treinen bailed him out by inducing a double-play grounder and then striking out Derek Dietrich to quash that potential rally. Jonathan Papelbon gave up a couple of singles to open the ninth but bounced back from two straight blown saves to finish this one off.
And thanks to the Mets’ loss earlier in the afternoon, the Nationals closed to within 7 games of the NL East leaders, with 14 to play.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Harper’s seventh-inning homer will get the most attention, and it certainly deserves it. But his fifth-inning at-bat might’ve been more important. At the plate with the bases loaded, 1 out and the Nationals trailing by a run, he battled Hand through a 10-pitch showdown that included five foul balls with two strikes, multiple uses of the rosin bag and a new bat after the first one broke. Harper wound up sending a sacrifice fly to right, bringing home the tying run. No, it wasn’t as glamorous as a home run into the second deck, but it was no less significant.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Things didn’t look good for Zimmermann four batters in; he gave up three hits and found himself down 2-0 just like that. But the right-hander found his groove over the course of the afternoon and kept the Marlins from scoring again after that. He wound up retiring the last seven batters he faced, four of them via strikeout. With his pitch count at 95 after six innings, he probably could have remained in the game. But Matt Williams decided to send up pinch-hitter Matt den Dekker in his spot and turn to his bullpen the rest of the way.
KEY STAT: Over the last two seasons, Brad Hand is 0-6 with a 7.84 ERA in seven starts against the Nationals.
UP NEXT: The series wraps up at 1:35 p.m. Sunday when Stephen Strasburg (coming off a 14-strikeout start in Philadelphia) looks to stay hot against Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
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)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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