MIAMI - The Nationals' 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Marlins on Tuesday night was a game filled with turning points, as so many of the games between these teams are. Everything that happened in the 10th inning - Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa botching an easy fly ball, Jerry Hairston Jr. running to the dugout twice to switch gloves so he could jump in and out of a desperation five-man infield - could have been prevented had a few decisions or at-bats gone a different way earlier in the game.
The main reason so many of these games with the Marlins end up as nail-biters is because the Nationals have so regularly missed opportunities to build a comfortable lead. They certainly did that again on Tuesday, stranding 11 runners and leaving a man on third three times.
"We really haven't played particularly well at the start of the season, but we've been in games," Hairston said. "We're putting ourselves in a position to win, which is good. We've just got to get over the hump, and we will."
Here are the awards from Tuesday night:
Ryan Zimmerman: Put simply, the third baseman has started the season on a tear. He's got a 1.406 OPS, and added three walks to his homer on Tuesday. The home run was a missile off Anibal Sanchez - who'd held Zimmerman homerless in 36 previous at-bats - that was placed perfectly to the left of the high wall in left field. Werth's base hit in the eighth inning would have been a homer a couple feet to the left, but Zimmerman smashed his off the Marlins' 1997 and 2003 World Series banner.
Jason Marquis: It's debatable whether manager Jim Riggleman should have left Marquis in the game to start the seventh inning, but everything the right-hander had done to that point was solid. He'd allowed one run in six innings, pitching his way out of several jams. The double he gave up to Donnie Murphy led to the game-tying run, but mostly, Marquis was efficient, walking no one and throwing just 76 pitches in 6 1/3 innings. "Any time you feel good (in the spring), you carry it over and you expect it to be there," Marquis said. "I just try to have that same mindset, and I was able to accomplish that today."
Wilson Ramos: He added a pair of hits against the Marlins, going 2-for-5, and has a .500 average in his first three games.
Hairston: He did draw a walk in the leadoff spot, marking the first time this year the Nationals have got a runner on base from that spot, but he went 0-for-4, and wound up getting caught in a rundown on one of the critical plays of the game, when the Marlins stopped him from scoring on Werth's eighth-inning single. That mistake was more third base coach Bo Porter than Hairston, but the rest of his night from the leadoff spot wasn't pretty.
Werth: He's never hit Sanchez well, so his two strikeouts early in the game weren't surprising. He was 0-for-4 when he singled off the wall in the eighth, and that almost put the Nationals ahead. But the fly ball he botched in the 10th after calling off Espinosa wound up costing the Nationals the game. "I take full responsibility," Werth said afterward.
In Case You Missed It:
I'm going to have a detailed post in a few minutes looking at all the critical decisions (leaving Marquis in to start the seventh, the Porter/Hairston out at third base and the Werth/Espinosa fly ball) with thoughts from all the involved parties. But I'll add one other nugget here: Drew Storen, who came back out for the 10th inning after pitching the ninth, had thrown 18 pitches in his first inning. That's not so many that he couldn't return for the 10th, but it became an issue later in the inning, when he got up to 36 pitches. After Werth's dropped fly ball, he intentionally walked Hanley Ramirez and gave up a lined single to Gaby Sanchez. The only thing Storen could have done differently in the 10th was not give up a hit to Sanchez, but all but one pitch he threw to Sanchez in an eight-pitch at-bat was up in the zone, including the 3-2 slider Sanchez hit for a single.
We talked a little yesterday about your worst Marlins memories. Where does this one rank? Leave your answers in the comments section. I'll have more in a little bit on all the key moments from the loss.