By Joe Frisaro and Jamal Collier
MLB.com |@JoeFrisaro |
MIAMI -- Facing the the first-place Nationals has brought out the best in Marlins ace Jose Fernandez. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out nine in six innings, and backed by Justin Bour's two-run home run and Ichiro Suzuki's four-hits, Miami held on for a 3-2 win on Saturday night at Marlins Park.
"I think this team has a big heart, and I love the way that we play," Fernandez said. "I love the passion that we play. For me, that's all I can ask for."
The Marlins secured the victory the hard way with closer A.J. Ramos, after allowing a run on Wilson Ramos' pinch-hit single, escaping a bases-loaded jam with none out. Pinch-hitter Jayson Werth tapped into a double play and Ramos locked up his 13th save on Jose Lobaton's grounder to first.
"We were thinking winning the game at that point," manager Dusty Baker said. "We were going for broke right there."
Fernandez improved to 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA against Washington this season and is 6-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his career against his division rival. The Marlins were able to snap their three-game slide, and end the Nats' three-game win streak by getting to Joe Ross for three runs in 5 2/3 innings.
"That was a good one," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Jose, obviously, set the tone for us. He was really good. Their guy was good, too. He's kind of tough. You've got to stay with him, and get him as the game goes later on, because he's got really good stuff."
With Giancarlo Stanton mired in an 0-for-19 slump, the second longest drought of his career, the Marlins have been seeking production elsewhere. Marcell Ozuna and Bour stepped up on Saturday. Ozuna had three hits and scored on Bour's go-ahead two-run blast in the sixth inning. Stanton's longest hitless slump is 31 at-bats in 2010.
The Nationals claimed the lead off Fernandez on Clint Robinson's two-out RBI single in the fourth. Fernandez's lone walk, to Chris Heisey, ended up costing him, as Heisey scored the first run.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Jose stays sharp: Named the National League Player of the Week after winning both starts, Fernandez stayed sharp on Saturday against the Nats, the team he beat last Sunday at Nationals Park. The right-hander was dominant, striking out nine, and he came up big by striking out Anthony Rendon to end the fourth inning with runners on the corners and two out. The strikeout came after Robinson's RBI single to center. If Fernandez made a mistake in the at-bat with Robinson it was that he threw three straight changeups, with the third being ripped up the middle. More >
"I knew when he got to 70, he wanted to get quick outs to try to stay in the game longer," Mattingly said.
Bested by Fernandez again: The key to beating Fernandez, Baker said, was to take advantage of any opportunity to score because there might not be another one. The Nats' best chance against the ace came in the fourth inning with runners on first and third with one out. They only managed one run after Robinson -- who is 3-for-8 with a homer in his career against Fernandez -- lined a single that ricocheted off the second-base bag and into center field.
"We had Fernandez on the ropes so to speak early in the game," Baker said. "But it seems like he finds a way to wiggle out of it."
Super-sub Ichiro: It wasn't clear until batting practice that Ichiro was going to make his first start since May 8. When Christian Yelich was scratched due to back spasms, Ichiro began warming up in left field. Ichiro singled and scored the tying run in the fifth inning on Prado's RBI hit. With 2,953 hits, Ichiro is 46 shy of 3,000. He enjoyed his first four-hit game since Aug. 18, 2015 at Milwaukee. More >
"Ichiro, to me, is a God," Fernandez said. "His work ethic. The way he goes about his business. The respect he brings with it. What he brings to this team, it's amazing."
Ninth inning rally: The Nats put together a rally against Ramos starting with back-to-back singles by Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy to put runners on first and third. Wilson Ramos came through with a pinch-hit single to cut the deficit to one. Rendon drew a walk to load the bases with none out, but a double play and a groundout spoiled a big opportunity. More >
"We'll take Jayson up there in that situation," Murphy said. "I'll take him up there the rest of the year and I'll take my chances."
"If we're going to be in this thing long-term, G is going to get hot. He's going to carry us for a big chunk of the season somewhere in here. This is obviously, a little bit extended. But you don't run from your guys. We're going to be in it, and G is going to be part of it. He's going to be a big part of it." -- Mattingly, on Stanton, in spite of the slugger's 0-for-19 slide
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Ozuna's double in the fourth inning extended his string of reaching base safely to 28 games.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: Right-hander Max Scherzer (4-3, 4.01 ERA) will make his 10th start of the season in Sunday's series finale at 1:10 p.m. ET. He has given up four runs on four homers in his past two starts, but he also has 30 strikeouts during that span. He allowed five runs in five innings against the Marlins on April 21.
Marlins:Adam Conley (3-2, 3.40) will make his ninth start on Sunday in the 1:10 p.m. ET matinee with the Nationals at Marlins Park. The lefty has faced the Nats twice, and had his struggles, giving up seven runs in 7 2/3 innings (8.22 ERA).