It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but the way things have gone this last week, the Nationals will take it.
Juan Soto’s three-run homer and Matt Adams’ solo shot highlighted a four-run eighth inning as the Nats came back from an 8-4 deficit to win 12-10 over the Marlins, their first victory in a series opener at home this season.
The Nationals allowed 15 hits, 10 runs, hit two batters and committed four errors. Yet they continually chipped away at early deficits and eventually took the lead for good. Down 9-8 in the bottom of the eighth, Soto slammed his eighth homer of the season and Adams followed with a solo shot, his 100th home run of his career and fourth on the year. The four runs gave the Nats a 12-9 lead.
But Trea Turner made two errors for the first time in the same inning and could have been charged with another miscue late that the official scorer ruled a base hit.
“For me, they all just happened at once, which is why it’s so glaring,” Turner said. “But I felt like we’ve played fairly good defense for the most part lately, and tomorrow’s a new day and we’ll try to get back to where we were at.”
It was not just Turner’s fielding miscues. Brian Dozier dropped a popup in foul territory. Yet the Nats found a way to win.
“Sloppy, but it was a win,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “I’m tired of saying it, but I’ll keep reiterating: These guys don’t quit and they play hard. But we got to play better. We got to be consistent. If we want to win every day, and have a chance to win every day, we got to be consistent. We really do. I’m proud of these guys for not quitting. They could’ve folded early.
“We made some errors, missed a pop fly. But you know what? They battled back. They battled and they keep battling. It’s to no surprise with these guys now. The way they come back and keep playing, but with that being said, we have to play clean baseball. I know I sound like a broken record but we have to. If we are going to come back and do the things we want to do, we have to play clean baseball.”
Was the pressure of the losing streak getting to the Nationals? Martinez believed this to be the case and may have contributed to the sloppy play.
“Today was the first time I saw a little bit,” Martinez noticed. “Yesterday as well. Dozier trying to make something happen, but you know, don’t. Don’t. Like I said, keep everything simple. Don’t chase the game. Play the game, you guys have been doing it your whole lives have fun. Let it come to you and do it.
“We had good at-bats today, but let’s play baseball the right way. We got a good team, I know that. We got a good defense and we’ve got young studs and we’ve got young veterans who can play the game. We got good pitching. Our bullpen’s going to be OK, I know, I’m telling ya, I know our bullpen’s going to be good. But let’s play the game the right way.”
Kyle McGowin was unable to get consistent outs and lasted only four innings. The right-hander allowed five runs on six hits - two of them homers - with a walk and two strikeouts. Brian Anderson smacked a two-run shot in the first to put the Marlins up 2-0. A homer by Curtis Granderson in the fourth made it 5-4 Miami.
“I was falling behind every hitter pretty much,” McGowin said. “They were putting good swings on balls I was missing and just leaving the ball up.”
In the fifth inning, Joe Ross struggled in relief, surrendering an RBI double to Harold Ramirez and a two-run single to Jorge Alfaro to extend the Marlins lead to 8-4.
The Nats chipped away with single runs in the fifth and sixth frames. Rendon’s double and a Soto single, which extended his hitting streak to eight games, helped to make it 8-5. Turner’s second hit of the game in the sixth, a run-scoring single to right field, made it 8-6 Marlins.
Then in the seventh, the Nats tied the game thanks to a two-run double by Victor Robles.
The Nats trailed 4-1 and 8-4. It was 8-8 after seven.
But again, the Nats allowed a go ahead run in the eighth inning. Kyle Barraclough (1-1) surrendered a run-scoring single to Starlin Castro to give Miami a 9-8 lead. Tony Sipp and Barraclough combined to give up three hits in the inning. Then the Nats rallied for four runs highlighted by the Soto blast off of a 100 mph fastball from Marlins hurler Tayron Guerrero.
“I’m just seeing the ball really well against him,” Soto said. “He was like 99 mph and I see like 94 mph. So I just tried to when I swung that ball I swung a little bit harder. I just tried to concentrate and hit the ball and then see what happens.”
Miami rolled up 15 hits and scored in six different innings, hitting two homers and two doubles. Anderson went 2-for-4 with two hits, including a homer, a walk, a hit by pitch, two RBIs and two runs scored, but it was their first loss in seven games. And the Nats got it done. But Martinez knows there is still work to be done. He knows the frustration of their 20-31 record is felt in stands at Nats Park as well.
“I can tell you right now if I was a fan, I’m frustrated,” Martinez said. “I am. And I am a fan of these guys because I know them. They don’t want to play like that. I know they don’t. But, hey, I keep telling them every day: simplify. You are not going to win 14 games with just one game. Play one game, just play one game. Every pitch of every inning, just play that pitch and move on from there. Don’t think you’re going to make up all these games in one. Just play the game, simplify everything, just play hard.
“They play hard, but we got to clean it up.”