WASHINGTON -- On a soggy Thursday when five Marlins combined to throw 174 pitches in a 6-4 win over the Nationals, none was more important than the 89-mph fastball by lefty reliever Craig Breslow that froze Anthony Rendon to end the eighth inning.
The pitch not only caught Rendon looking, it preserved a two-run advantage and denied Bryce Harper, who had homered in the seventh, the chance to step to the plate with runners on base. So much could have turned for Miami if Rendon had reached.
Manager Don Mattingly admitted he considered bringing in closer A.J. Ramos for a four-out save chance, but instead stuck with Breslow to get Rendon, who was 2-for-5.
"There were so many big outs," Mattingly said. "That was a big one because you've got A.J. going. I could have brought him in right there and had him go at Rendon. But with Harper sitting there, you kind of wanted to have that lefty. I don't know how much advantage that is for him, [Harper] hits everybody. So I keep Breslow in basically trusting him that he keeps Rendon in the ballpark and then he gets the lefty, if we have to."
Ramos did get the save in the ninth, but he had the luxury of not facing Harper with a man on base in a two-run game.
Breslow had never faced Rendon, but knew he was a tough out.
"It's not a real comfortable at-bat, with a guy with real good awareness of the strike zone," Breslow said. "He doesn't really chase too much off the plate. He's a guy with some power that can beat you in that situation, obviously. He represents the tying run.
"The strikeout was a bonus. I'm just trying to get an out there and give A.J. the ball with the lead."
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.