By Jacob Emert and Joe Frisaro
MLB.com |@JoeFrisaro |
WASHINGTON -- The Marlins scored four runs in the first four innings off Max Scherzer on Friday night, then held on tight, earning a 4-3 win over the Nationals in the series opener.
Scherzer's counterpart, rookie Adam Conley, limited the Nats to three runs on six hits over five-plus innings in his fifth career start. Washington squandered its best chance to erase the deficit when it loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning, but managed only one run.
"Throughout the entire end of that ballgame, the bullpen stepped up in a big way," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said after his 'pen threw four scoreless frames. "They really competed and challenged that strike zone."
The Nationals remained 6 1/2 games back of the Mets in the National League East race, missing a prime opportunity to gain ground on the division leaders as New York fell to Boston in 10 innings.
"[August losses] don't feel good," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "But we've got a pretty good attitude in here. We believe. That's the first step. Now we just have to go out there and play good competitive baseball like we've been doing and just kind of hope for some big hits."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Deep off Scherzer: For the fifth consecutive month, Scherzer's home runs allowed total has climbed. He allowed a two-run blast to Martin Prado in the third inning and a solo shot to Marcell Ozuna in the fourth, bringing the ace's total for August to seven and the season to 20. The All-Star responded by retiring the next 12 batters he faced, but he left after seven innings of four-run ball and was tagged with the loss.
"I threw the ball well, but it's frustrating to give up four runs in that game," Scherzer said. "I did a lot of good things tonight. No walks, pounded the zone, lot of first-pitch strikes and didn't fall behind guys. I'm doing everything I'm designed to go out there to do. I just need to execute and avoid some of these mistakes. That's the difference." More >
Barraclough minimizes damage: Conley, who did a nice job getting through five innings, ran into trouble in the sixth. He allowed a leadoff double to Jayson Werth and a single to Anthony Rendon. After Bryce Harper walked to fill the bases with no outs in a 4-2 game, Kyle Barraclough inherited a tricky situation. The hard-throwing rookie right-hander yielded a sacrifice fly to Ryan Zimmerman, but struck out Ian Desmond. Again with the bases full, Barraclough got a break when Ramos' grounder deflected off him to second baseman Dee Gordon, who threw to first to end the threat, preserving a 4-3 Miami lead.
"Huge," Jennings said. "To go get Barraclough and bring him into that situation, and only allow a sacrifice fly was huge. It truly turned the momentum right back to us." More >
Solo shots not enough: Outside of Zimmerman's sacrifice fly, the totality of Washington's offense came on a pair of home runs. Desmond blasted his 16th home run of the season, and ninth of the second half, in the second inning off Conley. Wilson Ramos cut into a three-run deficit three innings later with another solo shot, crushing one four rows over Miami's bullpen in left-center field.
"Just looking for a fastball," Desmond said. "I think [Conley] threw me a two-seamer that just ran out over a little bit too much, and I was able to get enough barrel on it to get it out."
Prado providing power: Prado may have just seven homers on the season, but the veteran third baseman has picked up his power production the past few weeks. His two-run homer in the third inning gave Miami the lead for good. It also was Prado's third homer (12 RBIs) in his last 16 games.
Prado was 2-for-3 off Scherzer, and is now 8-for-16 off the veteran right-hander in his career. More >
"Every single guy in this locker room right now is giving everything they have, because when you're professional and you play sports, you always compete. That being said, we're going to play a lot of teams who are in the race. We're going to go out there and make it difficult for them. That's the way it should be." -- Prado on Miami playing spoiler
WHAT'S NEXT Marlins:Tom Koehler (8-12, 3.98 ERA) seeks his first win since July 23. The right-hander gets the start on Saturday for the 7:05 p.m. ET start at Nationals Park. Koehler is 3-5 with a 4.28 ERA in eight career starts vs. the Nationals.
Nationals:Jordan Zimmermann (10-8, 3.54) will make his third start of the season against the Marlins on Saturday. Zimmermann didn't factor into the decision in either of the first two starts, but he combined to throw 13 innings, allowing three earned runs and zero walks while striking out eight.
Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.