Entering tonight, the Nationals had won only six of the 65 games this season in which they’d scored two runs or fewer.
They got just two runs tonight, and it was just enough.
The Nats plated both their runs in the first inning against Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi and then held on for a 2-1 win, with Tanner Roark, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano combining to throw four scoreless innings of relief behind Ross Ohlendorf.
Ian Desmond, who drove in one of the Nats’ two runs, was asked whether he thought that would be enough tonight.
“I mean, maybe in April. But that’s a totally different team over there,” Desmond said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys. They’ve got some good, young talent over there, and they’re a team you can not take lightly, especially this time of the year. Eovaldi, unbelievable arm, good pitcher, he’s got some intestinal fortitude, I guess you could say. Really aggressive.
“And they’ve got some young players on the offensive side of the ball that are capable of doing some big things. Two runs in the first, they did a good job of holding us there, but our pitching staff did a great job also.”
Tanner Roark was called upon to start warming in the bottom of the fifth despite the fact that Ross Ohlendorf had thrown just 74 pitches through five scoreless frames to that point. It seemed like a strange time for a reliever to get the call, but Roark got ready quickly and was thrown into action one batter into the sixth.
“Any time, when anybody’s pitching, it’s definitely a surprise because we hear the phone ring and everybody looks back and say, ‘OK, whose name is getting called upon?’ ” Roark said. “So it’s just wait and wait for your name to be called, get up on the mound, get loose and get ready.”
Roark’s scoreless inning was followed by one from Storen, who struck out pinch-hitter Juan Pierre to end the seventh. Then it was Clippard’s turn, and he continued his season-long run of dominance, setting Christian Yelich, Donovan Solano and Giancarlo Stanton down in order, with Solano and Stanton going down on strikes.
Stanton’s strikeout came on three pitches - all fastballs.
“You could say overpowered, but I think maybe overthought was probably a better way to put it,” Desmond said. “I don’t think he had seen three fastballs all year long. I think he probably walked back to the dugout thinking, ‘What just happened?’ But kudos to Clip for doing his job and doing it well.”
“I just wanted to get ahead of him and then once I threw strike one, I feel like, you know, I wanted to just kind of go after him because he was going to be aggressive after I got ahead of him and that’s what I did,” Clippard said. “He chased a couple fastballs and got him.
“I didn’t feel like he was (expecting an 0-2 fastball). Especially, power hitters usually see a lot of offspeed stuff in those counts and just trying to use his aggressiveness against him and it worked out.”
Clippard needed just nine pitches to get through the eighth, and said he could’ve worked the ninth, if manager Davey Johnson had asked him to do so.
“That’s kind of the funny thing about relieving,” Clippard said. “You get in there and you have a quick outing like that, you’re in the dugout and you’re like, ‘What am I going to do with all this adrenaline now?’ But that’s just the nature of it.”
Another tight ballgame, another night where the bullpen didn’t have much margin for error.
“We’re used to it,” Clippard said. “It seems like the type of games we play. But Ross did a heck of a job. Tanner came in, you know, it was a good team win tonight.”