Sánchez and Smith locked in pitching battle (Nats fall 3-2)

MIAMI - The Nationals used patience and aggressiveness to go after Marlins left-hander Caleb Smith early on.

In Smith’s 10-3 win over the Phillies in his last start, he surrendered one hit in six innings. The Nats connected on two base hits in their first at-bat Friday night at Marlins Park.

Adam Eaton led off the game by bunting for a base hit on the first pitch from Smith. He went to second on a wild pitch and scored thanks to incredible patience from slugger Juan Soto.

Down 1-2 in the count, Soto battled back to 3-2 and then laced a single down the left field line to plate Eaton. Soto got a hold of an 81-mph slider in the seventh pitch of the at-bat. The Nats led 1-0.

Former Florida Marlin pitcher Aníbal Sánchez struck out two in the first inning. Smith rebounded with two strikeouts in the second inning.

The Marlins second inning went better as Starlin Castro and Miguel Rojas delivered back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners. Isaac Galloway reached when Ryan Zimmerman failed to touch first base on a throw from Anthony Rendon. Castro scored, Zimmerman was charged with an error and Galloway got credit for a run batted in. The game was tied 1-1.

robles-swipes-second-gray-sidebar.jpgVictor Robles used his speed to reach first base in the third and stole second base. The video review took two minutes and 28 seconds to confirm Robles was safe with his third stolen base of the season. But Smith bore down and recorded three outs in a row to get out of the threat.

The Marlins earned two walks against Sánchez in the bottom of third. But Rojas struck out looking on an 89-mph cutter to end the inning.

After three innings, the Nats and the Marlins are tied 1-1.

Update: In the sixth with one out, Rendon doubled down the left field line to extend his career-high hitting streak to 17 games. The 17-game hit streak is also a major league best so far this season. A Smith wild pitch got Rendon to third. But Soto struck out and Zimmerman popped out to right field to end the inning.

Mid-sixth, the Nats and Marlins are tied 1-1.

Update II: In the bottom of the sixth, the Marlins chased Sánchez. Rojas doubled and Galloway singled with one out. Rosell Herrera reached on a fielder’s choice. With the bases loaded, Sánchez walked pinch-hitter Martín Prado to force in a run to give the Marlins a 2-1 advantage. That was the night for Sánchez.

Reliever Matt Grace hit Curtis Granderson with a pitch to extend Miami’s lead to 3-1. WIth two outs, reliever Joe Ross, making his first appearance in 10 days, induced a fly out to right field to end the rally.

Sánchez lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits with four walks and six strikeouts. He threw 90 pitches, 52 for strikes.

The Marlins lead 3-1 after six innings.

Update III: Brian Dozier cut into the lead in the seventh with a solo homer. The line drive roundtripper was his second of the season. The Marlins lead 3-2.

Update IV: In the top of the ninth, Marlins reliever Sergio Romo struck out pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick. Kurt Suzuki grounded out to shortstop. Dozier flied out to center field to end the game.

The Marlins snap a four-game skid and earn only their fifth win in 20 games. The Nats fall back to .500 at 9-9.

Final score: The Marlins 3, the Nats 2.

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