MIAMI -- The save may have gone to closer A.J. Ramos on Monday night in the Marlins' 4-3 win over the Nationals, but an unofficial assist could have been awarded to second baseman Dee Gordon.
Gordon's heads-up play, throwing out Michael Taylor trying to advance to third in the ninth inning, swung momentum back in Miami's favor and gave Ramos some breathing room against two of the most feared left-handed hitters in the National League.
And with the Marlins fighting to stay alive in the National League Wild Card race, now four behind the Giants and Cardinals for the second spot, it proved even more critical.
The ninth didn't start out smoothly for Ramos, who allowed a leadoff double to Wilson Ramos. Taylor pinch-ran for the Washington catcher, and Ryan Zimmerman hit a broken-bat grounder up the middle.
Gordon was already shifted that way, and he was able to collect the ball cleanly and throw Taylor out at third. Martin Prado applied the tag, denying the Nationals from having a runner on third with one out.
"That's just where the play took me," Gordon said. "I was just trying to get an out for A.J. and my teammates. It seemed like the right play, so that's the play I made."
Marlins manager Don Mattingly acknowledged Taylor was in a difficult spot.
"That's a tough play on the runner, because you're taught on a ball on your left, you can go," Mattingly said. "It just happens to be Dee is playing him right there. That's a tough one on the runner, because your instincts say go. It was a huge out for us to get him out of scoring position with their big lefties coming up. That was huge for us."
With one out and Zimmerman on first, Ramos still wasn't out of danger. The Nationals didn't start Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy, making them both available to pinch-hit. They both did in the ninth.
Harper, however, first lifted a fly ball to left field for the second out, and Murphy drove the ball to right, but Ichiro Suzuki had plenty of room to secure it for the win.
"If you can't hit, you better play defense or you're not going to be in there," Gordon said. "That's my big thing, just playing defense. I didn't do much with the bat today, lined out a few times. I just wanted to make sure I was there for the guys with my defense."
The Marlins' bullpen did a nice job in relief of Wei-Yin Chen, who worked 4 1/3 innings, giving up three runs in his first appearance since July 20. Chen had been out with a left elbow sprain.
"Obviously, our bullpen does a nice job getting us big outs all the way through," Mattingly said.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. 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.