July 6, 2020

Washington Nationals Game 132 Review: Nats win battle of attrition over Marlins after rain delay


What started out as a matchup of Stephen Strasburg against Henderson Alvarez turned into a battle of attrition in the bullpens thanks to a hour-plus rain delay in the bottom of the second inning. But the Washington Nationals were able to overtake the Miami Marlins, then hang on to squish the Fish 4-3, before 24,394 at a soggy Nationals Park.

The Nats rode effective pitching by Craig Stammen, a homer by Jayson Werth and a clutch hit by Ian Desmond to beat the Marlins for the second night in a row and secure their seventh win in eight games and eighth out of their last 11 to up their record to 67-65. Unfortunately, due to Cincinnati’s 10-0 beat-down of Adam Wainright and the Cardinals, the Nats didn’t make up any ground on the last Wild Card spot.

Stammen didn’t figure in the decision, but he did pitch three mostly terrific innings of work in relief of Strasburg (2 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K), who did not return after the rain delay. Stammen allowed one run — a solo home run — and five hits, striking out three without walking a batter.

The Nats jumped out on top in the second inning before the rains came. Desmond led off with a single off Alvarez’ leg and after two strikeouts came around to score on Steve Lombardozzi’s big two-out double.

When play resumed, the Nats doubled their lead in the fourth. Ryan Zimmerman’s one-out single preceded Bryce Harper’s double to left on a 3-0 count that brought Zimmerman all the way around to score. Harper showed good judgment to hit the pitch where it was and drove the ball the opposite way to drive in the Nats’ second run.

Marlins’ catcher Jeff Mathis led off the fifth against Stammen with a solo hot, his fourth of the year, but Stammen escaped the frame without further damage, despite giving up a double with one out.

Ryan Mattheus replaced Stammen as the bridge to the back of the bullpen, but unfortunately for the young reliever, he just set that bridge ablaze. The first batter he faced, notorious Nats-killer Giancarlo Stanton, crushed a 3-2 slider that hung in the zone for a massive homer to straight-away center field to tie the game at two. Mattheus then allowed consecutive singles to Logan Morrison and Donovan Solano to put runners at the corners.

The Marlins helped out a little bit on the next play. Adeiny Hechavarria grounded to  third, and Zimmerman went home after Morrison foolishly broke for the plate. The ensuing rundown ended with Morrison out at third, but still with runners on the corners for Miami. Unfortunately, Mattheus couldn’t benefit from the break and allowed a single to Mathis that scored Solano to make it 3-2.

But the Nats tied it right back up in the bottom of the sixth, as Jayson Werth slammed an 0-1 fastball from Arquemedes Caminero to center for his 20th home run of the season to knot things at three apiece.

Washington took the lead for good in the seventh. Denard Span led off with a walk from lefty Mike Dunn (L, 3-4). Then Dunn tried to pick off Span at first and threw one away, allowing the Nats center fielder to move up a base. After striking out Harper, Dunn then intentionally walked Werth to face Desmond. Big mistake.

Desmond went up looking for something to work with on the first pitch, and handled Dunn’s 85-MPH slider for a line drive to left field that plated Span easily to make the score 4-3.

All that was left was for Tyler Clippard to pitch a perfect eighth inning, and Rafael Soriano to do the same in the ninth, to earn his 35th save and secure the victory for reliever Drew Storen (W, 4-2, 5.47), who worked around a hit and a walk in the seventh to get the win.

THE GOOD: Desmond. 3-for-4, run and RBI. Stud.

THE BAD: Adam LaRoche. 0-for-4, 2 Ks.

THE UGLY: Mattheus. He just hasn’t been the same pitcher since returning from the D.L. after breaking his hand punching his locker back in May. He’s a big part of this bullpen though so the Nats hope he can figure out why he’s been so ineffective, because apparently the short stint in Syracuse didn’t help any.

THE STATS: 10 hits, 5 BBs, 9 Ks. 1-for-12 with RISP, 10 LOB. E: Harper (5, fielding).

NEXT GAME: Thursday against the Marlins at 7:05 pm. Gio Gonzalez (7-6, 3.72) hosts Tom Kohler (3-8, 4.45)

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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