Nats topple Marlins again with rare power display (updated)

The Nationals’ offensive issues this season really can be boiled down to a simple disparity in their production at the plate: Plenty of contact, not nearly enough power.

Entering the day, the Nats actually led the National League with 853 singles, which would be meaningful if not for the major-league-leading 130 double plays they had grounded into. And it’s not like they’ve made up for that with extra-base hits; they ranked 13th in the NL (25th in the majors) with 367 of them.

So consider what they did today during a 5-3 victory over the Marlins within the context of the season as a whole. The Nationals launched four home runs (all solo), then added a pair of doubles. They wound up, remarkably, with zero singles in this game, yet proved it’s still possible to win without them for only the fifth time in club history.

"Don't get me wrong; I like homers," manager Davey Martinez said. "But I also like homers the right way. These guys swung the bats well today. We hit some balls hard. We hit some balls that went out of the ballpark, which is really nice."

It certainly helped matters that four relievers combined to toss five scoreless innings after Erick Fedde labored through four long innings. Without the work of Hunter Harvey, Erasmo Ramirez, Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Finnegan, the Nats don’t pull off back-to-back wins over the Marlins after opening the season 1-12 against their division counterparts.

"All of them," Martinez said of his relief corps. "All of them came out of the bullpen and did exactly what we wanted them to do: Attack the strike zone."

But this story of this game really was the unexpected power display from a lineup that hasn’t shown enough of that this year.

The Nationals scored one run a piece in the first, second, third, fourth and fifth innings, getting solo homers from Lane Thomas, Luke Voit, Victor Robles and Alex Call, plus back-to-back doubles from Luis García and Riley Adams, to account for their entire offensive production on this late Saturday afternoon against Miami’s pitching staff.

"You're going to have to win games all sorts of different kinds of ways," Call said. "I think we have a team that can do that. Whether it's putting together a few hits, hitting the longball, grinding out at-bats, we've got a lot of talented players. I'm glad we could find a way to win today."

Thomas got things started with a bang when he led off the bottom of the first with a shot to left on the eighth pitch he saw from starter Trevor Rogers. His 16th homer of the season helped continue a late-season surge for the 27-year-old outfielder.

The three other homers came off Marlins relievers after Rogers was forced to depart in the second with left lat discomfort. Voit got it going with a solo shot to left off Jeff Brigham, his eighth in 36 games since joining the team at the trade deadline.

Robles, starting for the second day in a row after sitting nine consecutive games, also took Brigham deep in the fourth. Call then put the finishing touches on the afternoon with a leadoff homer off Cole Sulser in the fifth inning of a game that saw all three of the Nationals' starting outfielders homer.

"It was incredible," Robles said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. "We talked among each other during the game. We were talking about how cool it was."

The tone – or, more specifically, the pace – for this game was set right from the outset when Fedde needed 27 pitches to face four batters during a scoreless top of the first. That was a precursor of things to come for Fedde, who labored throughout and wound up throwing a whopping 87 pitches to 18 batters over four innings.

Fedde, remarkably, never issued a walk. His issue wasn’t necessarily command; it was an inability to get swings and misses, or quick outs. The Marlins swung at 41 of his pitches, and put bat on ball 36 times. Fifteen of those wound up in play, while a staggering 21 were fouled off.

Through it all, Fedde managed to limit the damage. But when he served up a two-run homer to Jerar Encarnación on a fourth-inning curveball, his fate was sealed. The right-hander wasn’t given an opportunity to retake the mound for the fifth even though his team led 4-3, thus denying him a chance to qualify for the win.

"I just really wasn't able to throw much of a quality breaking ball," he said. "I was hanging it a lot on the plate, and that eliminates my swing-and-miss on that pitch, which makes for a lot of foul balls. And some of the at-bats are longer."

Game 146 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins
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