"You want the home-field advantage if you can get it," said Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth. "It's not the end all, be all, but it's an accomplishment having the best record in the NL. It says a lot about this team and the season we had. It's good, but it doesn't necessarily guarantee anything in the postseason. It will be nice to be home next week. Don't have to travel. There is definitely an advantage to that."
In the second game, Nationals manager Matt Williams played most of his bench players, with Werth and Wilson Ramos the only regulars seeing action. They gave it a battle but couldn't overcome the struggles on the mound.
Nationals right-hander Taylor Hill made his first Major League start, and he had learned about the assignment while he was in the instructional league in Viera, Fla.
"I was in Florida staying ready," Hill said. "You never know what could happen. Fortunately, I got the opportunity to come up. It was really cool."
Unfortunately for Hill, it was an outing he'd like to forget.
The scoring began in earnest, with the Marlins taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning, as Christian Yelich scored on a single by Casey McGehee. But Washington took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the inning against right-hander Andrew Heaney, Miami's top prospect. Kevin Frandsen and Werth highlighted the scoring with RBI hits -- Werth's a triple en route to a three-hit game in which he fell a homer shy of the cycle.
After Miami added a run in the second, Washington took a 4-2 lead in the third on Steven Souza Jr.'s home run into the Red Porch area in left-center field, the second of his Major League career.
But Hill was hit hard in the fifth inning, as Miami scored five runs to take a 7-4 lead, highlighted by J.T. Realmuto's three-run triple. Hill left the game and was replaced by left-hander Ross Detwiler, who allowed an RBI double to Adeiny Hechavarria.
"I wasn't sharp like I wanted to be. That's part of it," said Hill, who was charged with seven runs on 10 hits over 4 2/3 innings while recording his first big league hit on a clean single. "I found myself behind a lot of hitters. It ended up hurting me toward the end of the game."
The Nationals made it a one-run game against reliever Brad Penny by the sixth inning. With runners on first and third and nobody out in the fifth, Tyler Moore hit into a double play, which scored Werth. An inning later, with Carter Capps on the mound, Frandsen singled to center, scoring Jeff Kobernus. The run was charged to Penny.
But the Marlins came right back in the seventh inning, with Justin Bour hitting a two-run double off Xavier Cedeno. Right-hander Aaron Barrett relieved Cedeno and struck out Realmuto before his throwing error upon fielding a slow roller from Hechavarria allowed Bour to score from second.
The Nationals got one back in the bottom of the inning when Moore hit a 2-1 pitch from Chris Hatcher for a long home run over the right-center-field wall to make it a three-run game.
But in the ninth inning, Craig Stammen allowed five runs while serving up Enrique Hernandez's first career grand slam.
"That's how baseball works sometimes," said Realmuto, who had four RBIs. "We've been struggling scoring runs for the better half of this month right now. Sometimes it all comes out in one game. It was nice to see that out of our lineup. We got on a roll early, and once you get going like that, you kind of start to feed off each other, which was nice."
Despite the loss, the Nats came away feeling good that they were able to play four games in two days without any injuries.
"We had the right amount of callups," Werth said. "We managed to not overuse anybody or anything like that."