We’ve already had some drama here at Nationals Park tonight, and the game isn’t even an inning old.
The Marlins got to Gio Gonzalez for a run in the top of the first when Donovan Solano, who doubled leading off the game, came around on an Ed Lucas RBI single. But things heated up in the bottom of the first, when the Nats took the lead and saw their bench coach get ejected just minutes later.
Bryce Harper smoked a three-run homer to center off Henderson Alvarez, giving the Nats a 3-1 advantage, and after falling behind Ian Desmond - the next hitter after Harper’s homer - 3-0, Alvarez drilled Desmond with a 95 mph fastball just below the left shoulder.
Desmond’s momentum carried him out towards the mound a little bit, but he immediately turned and ran to first base. But a handful of Nats players in the dugout, including Jayson Werth, jumped up to the top step, and starting yelling and gesturing towards Alvarez and those near the mound.
Home plate umpire Bill Welke immediately issued warnings to both benches, which clearly upset the Nationals. Bench coach Randy Knorr started screaming at Welke from the dugout, and he was ejected for his trouble.
After the inning, Davey Johnson came out to have a talk with Welke, and Welke also pulled Gonzalez aside to have a brief chat with him, likely warning him individually that a plunking could result in an ejection.
Issuing warnings in such a situation not only means that the Nats can’t have a pitcher retaliate (should they have a desire to do so) until tomorrow without risking that pitcher being ejected, but it also means that pitchers can’t pitch inside with as much confidence as normal, knowing that if a pitch legitimately gets away from them and a hitter is plunked, they could get tossed.
Now Gonzalez, due to no fault of his own, probably can’t attack the inside part of the plate with as much authority.
We’ll see how this plays out the rest of this series.
Harper, meanwhile, now has 20 homers on the season, making him the fifth Nats player to reach the 20-homer mark this season.
He joins Ryan Zimmerman (25 homers), Werth (23), Desmond (20) and Adam LaRoche (20).
The Nats are now the third major league team this season to have five 20-homer guys, joining the Braves and Blue Jays.
The Nats lead 3-1 after one.
Update: We’re through five, and that same 3-1 score still stands.
Gonzalez has settled in nicely, and is through five innings on 81 pitches, this after needing 62 to get through his first three frames of work.
The left-hander has set down seven in a row, and is giving himself a chance to work deep into this game after a shaky start.
Update II: Gonzalez is now done after six solid innings, having allowed two runs on seven hits, with two walks and three strikeouts.
He threw 105 pitches overall, 68 for strikes.
In three starts against the Marlins this season, Gonzalez has allowed just two runs over 19 innings (0.95 ERA) with 16 strikeouts.
The Marlins cut the Nats’ lead in half in the sixth when Giancarlo Stanton - the Nats killer - bounced a leadoff double down the left field line and Justin Ruggiano followed with a double to left of his own.
It’s 3-2 Nats as they turn to Drew Storen in the seventh.
Update III: Denard Span is now 0-for-4 after a seventh-inning strikeout, and his 29-game hitting streak is in serious jeopardy.
The Nats still hold a 3-2 lead as we go to the eighth, but that doesn’t bode well for Span getting another plate appearance tonight. The Nats would either need to send seven men to the plate in the eighth inning, or they’d need to trail going to the bottom of the ninth, in order for Span to get another crack at tying Ryan Zimmerman’s team record of 30 straight games with a hit.
Span flied out in the first, grounded out in the second and fifth innings, and struck out swinging in the seventh.
After the K, he walked back to the dugout slowly as fans came to their feet, giving him a standing ovation. Span tipped his helmet.
The Nats do still have the lead, however, and Span will surely take the win. Tyler Clippard will work the eighth.
Update IV: Clippard and Rafael Soriano both turned in scoreless innings of work, and the Nats beat the Marlins 3-2. Soriano made things interesting in the ninth before closing the door, walking two but striking out Christian Yelich to end the game and leave the tying run in scoring position.
With the win, the Nats move to five games back of the idle Reds in the wild card chase, with nine games remaining on the schedule.
Span’s 29-game hitting streak comes to an end in the win, leaving him one game short of Zimmerman’s team record.