Their ace and their veteran outfielder returned Monday night, leading to victory. Their leadoff man and shortstop returned tonight, contributing to victory.
The Nationals are looking more and more whole these days, and not surprisingly, the results are reflecting that.
With Trea Turner back atop the lineup tonight after a two-month absence, the Nats finally solved pesky Marlins right-hander Vance Worley and put up their second straight big night at the plate. And thanks to another quality start from Edwin Jackson and some more impressive work from their revamped bullpen, the Nationals emerged with an 8-3 win over Miami that reduced their magic number to clinch the division to 18.
Turner, playing for the first time since he fractured his right wrist June 29, went 1-for-4 with a walk, but contributed a key double and scored a run in the fifth and also made a nice play at shortstop. The middle of the Nationals order did the most damage, with Daniel Murphy going 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Anthony Rendon going 2-for-3 with four RBIs.
The Marlins came to town having won 13 of their last 16, posing a bit of a threat to the Nationals’ division supremacy. Or maybe not. With two lopsided victories to open this series, the Nats have extended their lead back to 14 games, with only 31 remaining on the schedule.
As has been the case more often than not this summer, Jackson played a big role in it. The journeyman right-hander has been - to the surprise of many - a steadying force for the Nationals since Joe Ross was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery. Six batters into tonight’s game, though, he looked anything but steady.
The big blow, of course, was Giancarlo Stanton’s towering 440-foot homer to left, the Miami slugger’s 51st of the season and 18th of the month (making him only the third player in major league history to do that). But there also were three walks, and the two outs Jackson recorded came on long fly balls.
But a diving backhanded stab by Turner of Tomas Telis’ bases-loaded liner to short got Jackson out of the inning with only one run across the plate. And he proceeded to cruise through his next five innings, completing the sixth with only one more run on the board and only three more batters reaching base (none via walk).
With his starter’s pitch count at 92, Dusty Baker had a decision to make. The manager chose to let his starter retake the mound for the seventh, but he quickly had Matt Albers and Oliver Pérez warming in the bullpen after Jackson put four straight men on base, two via hits, one via his own throwing error and one (Stanton) via intentional walk.
The lead now down to two runs, the bases loaded and nobody out, Baker summoned Pérez to face Christian Yelich. The veteran lefty responded by inducing a bouncer to third from the Marlins No. 3 hitter, with Rendon throwing home to force the lead runner.
Albers then entered and left the crowd roaring with delight after striking out Marcell Ozuna with a deadly slider/two-seamer combo and getting J.T. Realmuto to ground out to short, escaping the bases-loaded jam with the two-run lead intact.
Rendon’s bases-clearing double in the bottom of the seventh extended that lead to five runs and took pressure off Brandon Kintzler (who retired the side in the eighth) and Sean Doolittle (who pitched a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation).