Nats keep slim hopes alive
WASHINGTON—After Bryce Harper provided Washington with a first-inning lead, the Nationals spent the rest of the game holding off the worst team in the National League.
Harper hit a three-run homer to back an effective pitching performance by Gio Gonzalez as the Nationals edged the Miami Marlins 3-2 last night to keep alive their slim hope of reaching the playoffs.
Washington needed every bit of mettle it could muster to win this one. Gonzalez (11-7) worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third and spied a runner trying to steal third in the sixth.
Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard then each worked a harrowing scoreless inning before Rafael Soriano got three outs—stranding two runners in earning his 42nd save.
“I mean, everybody was out there. Gave me a heart attack. Check my pulse,” said Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson.
“Gio took it right to the edge, Storen to the edge, ‘Clip’ and ‘Sori’ topped it off,” he noted.
“But it’s nice to come out on top.”
Denard Span went 0-for-4 for Washington, ending his hitting streak at 29 games—one short of the Nationals’ record.
He was bidding to become the 27th player to have a 30-game hitting streak since Joe DiMaggio had his 56-game run in 1941.
Span received a standing ovation from many in the crowd of 25,945 after he struck out in the seventh, his final at-bat.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, allowed two runs and seven hits over six innings to improve to 3-0 against Miami this season.
He also struck out three—lifting his team-high total to 186.
“The good news is we got the win,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a very important win.”
Harper’s 20th homer of the season came off Henderson Alvarez (4-5) and turned out to be all the offence the Nationals needed to improve to 12-4 against Miami, including 7-0 at home.
“I like being in those pressure situations, crucial situations of playing for the wild-card,” Harper said.
“All year long you try to play for the playoffs and try to go to the next round,” he noted.
“Now it’s getting to that point where we’re turning it on and playing the game how we should have played it all year.”
Ed Lucas had three hits for the Marlins, who must go 7-2 in their last nine games to avoid 100 losses.
Miami went just 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10.
“I think that’s good we’re getting guys in scoring position, but at the same time we’ve got to do a better job of driving those guys in,” stressed manager Mike Redmond.
“We seem to have two or three, four opportunities a night and can’t capitalize on them, and really that ends up being the difference.”
Elsewhere in the NL, Pittsburgh bombed San Diego 10-1, San Francisco edged N.Y. 2-1, Chicago beat Milwaukee 5-1, Colorado upended St. Louis 7-6 (15 innings), and L.A. topped Arizona 7-6.