MIAMI – Last night’s 7-4 victory over the Marlins was a payback win for the Nationals. It was their first win over their National League East rivals this season in their seventh attempt. It was just their fifth win against the Fish and just their third at loanDepot Park since the start of last year. And it helped catapult them out of the division basement with a one-game lead over the Mets.
But it was also a revenge game for two Nationals pitchers, both of whom had past demons to conquer in Miami.
The first was Joan Adon, the 25-year-old right-hander making his fourth start since rejoining the Nats rotation at the beginning of the month.
Adon entered last night’s start with an 0-2 record, 10.57 ERA and 1.826 WHIP in two career starts against the Marlins, both coming in that very ballpark. Those numbers are inflated by the eight runs on seven hits and two walks he allowed in three innings during a June 7 start last year.
He was optioned to Triple-A Rochester after that rough outing and only made two more major league starts the rest of the 2022 season, both in emergency situations.
By the end of the night Friday, Adon stood in front of his locker – the same locker he sat in front of after he was optioned to Rochester last year – with a smile on his face after earning the third win of his major league career.
“Absolutely,” Adon said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez, when asked if he could appreciate how far he’s come since that moment last year. “I feel like I've come a long way, especially coming into the same clubhouse knowing what happened last season. And it was in this same locker that I was at when it happened. I did get to the stadium today and think about it a little bit. But today I told myself we're going to do it today.”
What he did was take a no-hitter into the sixth inning and finish with his second quality start in four outings this month. He completed six shutout innings of two-hit ball and three strikeouts, none bigger than the one of Josh Bell with a changeup to end the sixth with two runners in scoring position during a 3-0 game.
“Absolutely,” manager Davey Martinez also replied when asked if he can appreciate Adon’s turnaround. “I said this, even when he was coming out of the bullpen for us earlier, I saw a big difference in him. His demeanor, his maturity. He went back down and worked on some things we asked him to do. And now he's getting an opportunity to pitch every five or six days. He's done well.”
Adon turned it over to the bullpen after 94 pitches. But when Mason Thompson allowed five straight hits to let the Marlins cut the Nats’ lead to 6-3 without recording an out, Davey Martinez turned to Robert Garcia to face his former team.
Garcia has only been with the Nats for a little over three weeks. After making his major league debut with the Marlins on July 14, he was placed on waivers and the Nationals claimed him on Aug. 1 to fill the roster spot left by Jeimer Candelario after his trade to the Cubs.
The 27-year-old had only made that one appearance for the Marlins, facing three batters, allowing one hit, walking one and recording one out against the Orioles.
All of a sudden, there he was making his first appearance in loanDepot Park. Although it wasn’t for the home team. It was for the away team, which was in a big jam with runners on the corners, no outs and a 6-3 lead.
“I think I got a little fired up,” he said. “But that's part of the situation. I calmed myself down a little bit and went out there the second time and did my job.”
Garcia allowed one inherited runner to score with a ground ball and then got out of the inning with a double play ball and a 6-4 lead intact.
The left-hander came back out for the eighth, now holding a 7-4 lead, and retired the side in order with two strikeouts to boot.
“You worry sometimes because you get so amped up sometimes,” Davey Martinez said. “We told him to kind of keep the emotions out of it a little bit and just go attack like you always do. Big inning, big outs for us. And he went back out there and he got another full inning and closed the door down for us right there.”
Try as he might, it was hard for Garcia to completely remove the emotions of facing his former team.
“It did. It did and it didn't,” he said of that fact racing through his mind. “At the end of the day, I gotta go out there and do my job. So like I said, I took a deep breath, made pictures when I needed to and helped the team win. That's what I did.”
Garcia has seen his role grow a lot in this bullpen, which for so long has been without a reliable left-hander. The Nationals have liked what they’ve seen from the southpaw.
“We like him a lot. He's good,” Davey Martinez said. “He's another one, when he attacks the strike zone, he's got three good pitches, but he's got to get ahead and attack the zone. He did that really well tonight.”