SAN DIEGO - The Nationals this season have made a habit of losing the kinds of games they lost on Friday night, doing just enough to take an early lead, but not fattening their margin and eventually letting teams come back to beat them in a low-scoring game. Against the Padres on Friday night, though, they managed to avoid most of those tendencies.
Jason Marquis pitched out of a harrowing jam in the sixth inning, putting the Nationals' bullpen in position to shut the game down in a 2-1 win over the Padres.
Here are last night's awards:
Jason Marquis: He took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, and the only run he allowed was on a bases-loaded walk he issued to Ryan Ludwick in the sixth. But Marquis got out of that inning with an impressive sequence of pitches to Anthony Rizzo, throwing him three changeups and two sliders in a six-pitch at-bat, getting the rookie first baseman to chase a changeup on 3-2. It was a display of savvy pitching from the 32-year-old, and his seventh win was well-deserved.
Tyler Clippard: The reliever continues to be there for the Nationals just about every time they need him. He threw two or more innings for the fourth time in six appearances on Friday, needing just 23 pitches to face seven batters, striking out three. He's given up just five runs in his last 15 appearances, and has 28 strikeouts in that time. It's rare to see a reliever who's not a closer in the All-Star Game, but Clippard is making a strong case to be there.
Michael Morse: Imagine how anemic the Nationals' offense would be without Morse, who's probably been the hottest hitter in baseball the last month. He's hitting .373 since May 1, and has nine homers and 27 RBIs in 32 games since then. His two-run homer on Friday night was one of the most impressive blasts ever hit at Petco Park, landing in the second tier of the upper deck, and Morse also drew a walk.
Nationals' baserunning: Jayson Werth got picked off first in the sixth inning - though replays showed he was likely safe as he pulled back his hand closest to Rizzo and tagged first with his other hand - and Ian Desmond got caught stealing in the third with Werth at the plate. On a night where the Nationals only scored two runs, two of their 27 outs came on the bases. That could have been key if they'd lost.
Danny Espinosa: He went 0-for-4, striking out twice and leaving two men on base with his strikeout in the ninth inning.
In Case You Missed It:
* On his homer, Morse again slapped the top of his helmet as he rounded first base. He's been in the habit of doing that lately. Why? "To make sure it doesn't fly off," he said. Later, he joked, "Maybe I'm congratulating myself. I don't know."
* Marquis had only thrown four changeups all night until his at-bat with Rizzo. He threw him three in that at-bat. His fastball had been tailing off in the sixth inning, losing some velocity and creeping up in the zone. The way he got out of the jam impressed more than a few people in the Nationals clubhouse.
1. Just one question today: The way Marquis has pitched, how would you handle him in the next two months? Do you look to trade him soon, while his value is at its highest? Do you wait until closer to the trade deadline, or do you try to keep him and put him in the back of your rotation next year?
Leave your answers in the comments section. I'll have a look at the way the Nationals are using Clippard later today, and an earlier start (8:35 Eastern time) to tonight's game means the early-to-bed crowd should at least see some of it.