If you showed up for the first pitch of Nationals-Marlins today, you could have left 25 minutes later knowing you’d get free wings from Hard Times Cafe. Not a bad deal. And for the Nationals, the big lead against Florida was exactly what they needed.
They broke out for six runs in the first inning against the Marlins, battering struggling Florida right-hander Javier Vazquez. And before they got their bats going for a couple of big hits later in the first, they started the rally by running hard.
Roger Bernadina beat out a bunt to lead off the game. Two batters later, Jayson Werth beat out an infield single, lunging at the last second to arrive ahead of the throw from Hanley Ramirez. And when Laynce Nix hit a blooper to left, and Logan Morrison bobbled the ball, Werth was gone to third. Nix went to second as the Marlins hurriedly tried to get Werth. And after Ivan Rodriguez drove in two runs with a single to right, he slid hard into second base, allowing Jerry Hairston Jr. to beat a throw to first to avoid a double play. Adam LaRoche scored, and the Nationals went on to get two more runs on a Jason Marquis double.
So if you’re counting, the Nationals scored six runs in the first, matching their biggest inning of the season and marking only the second time since they came to Washington that they scored six in a first inning. And they beat out three balls in the infield in the process.
Without those plays, the Nationals go down 1-2-3 in the first, and they’re down 2-0 right now, instead of leading Florida 6-2 in the bottom of the second.
We’ve talked about it here several times, but the influence of Werth and third-base coach Bo Porter can’t be understated here. Werth honed his instincts in Philadelphia to become a top-notch agitator on the basepaths; as soon as he sees an opening, he’s gone, and he nearly took off for home when the throw to third momentarily got away from Greg Dobbs. And with Porter pushing the gas pedal at third, the rest of the Nationals’ roster is following Werth’s lead.
That’s what they’ll have to do until their offense comes around - or if it doesn’t come around. It’s got them out to a big lead today.