Brian Goodwin may have slumped at times, and he may not have been able to duplicate the production the Nationals would have received from Adam Eaton or Michael A. Taylor had either of their top two center fielders been healthy all summer. But where would this team be without its third-stringer, who has more than held down the fort in the absence of others and has delivered more than his share of big hits along the way.
Just like he did tonight. Goodwin’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the eighth broke a deadlock between the Nationals and Marlins and sent the home club on its way to a 3-2 victory in a highly compelling ballgame.
Goodwin’s blast off reliever Junichi Tazawa, which landed in the second deck down the right field line, was his 13th homer in 242 big league at-bats this season, a healthy amount of surprising power out of the leadoff spot.
This one came at a most fortuitous moment for the Nationals, who trailed 2-0 for a good portion of the game before rallying to tie it up in the sixth and ultimately take the lead in the eighth.
A key, once again, was the work of their new-look bullpen. Asked to keep a 2-2 game tied, Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Madson did the same thing they’ve done every time they’ve taken the mound since joining the Nationals: They posted zeros.
Kintzler pitched around a leadoff single in the seventh to notch his fifth consecutive scoreless inning wearing a curly W cap. Madson retired the side with two strikeouts in the eighth, his eighth scoreless inning since his acquisition.
Sean Doolittle finished things off with a scoreless ninth, with some help from rookie left fielder Andrew Stevenson, whose diving catch of Dee Gordon’s soft liner ended the game with the tying run on third base to secure Doolittle’s seventh save in as many opportunities.
Before the bullpen took over, Tanner Roark spent the better part of six innings trying to find himself on a night in which he never did look comfortable. He walked five batters (two intentionally) and needed 107 pitches just to record 18 outs. But the right-hander managed to limit the damage, with the Marlins’ only two runs off him coming on one mighty swing by an all-too-familiar foe.
Giancarlo Stanton has been terrorizing the Nationals (and plenty of other teams) throughout his career, and he did it again tonight by launching a 1-1 fastball from Roark deep to left for a two-run homer in the top of the third.
That was Stanton’s league-leading 39th homer of the season and his 32nd homer in 407 career plate appearances against the Nationals.
Roark kept the mighty Marlins slugger in the park the rest of the night, though, and he battled his way through six innings allowing only those two runs, an unconventional but effective quality start. He also figured prominently in his team’s game-tying rally in the bottom of the sixth.
After Adrián Sanchez led off the inning with a double down the third base line - the rookie’s eighth hit in his last 11 at-bats - Roark somewhat surprisingly was sent up to the plate with a bat. With Howie Kendrick (back) and Anthony Rendon (sick) something less than 100 percent healthy, the Nationals may have been dealing with a short bench, prompting manager Dusty Baker’s unconventional decision.
Roark, though, did his job, bunting Sanchez over to third base. That set the stage for Goodwin to drive him in with a single to right. Then, after Wilmer Difo sent a flyball to center for the second out, the Marlins had the option of walking Bryce Harper with first base open but instead elected to pitch to the slugger. And Harper immediately made them pay for it, roping an RBI double off the scoreboard in right-center to tie the game 2-2 and leave this one in the hands of the two bullpens.