Cruz’s homer propels Mariners to first-ever win in Washington

His starter beginning to labor, Dusty Baker made the decision to hand over today’s game to the Nationals bullpen with one out in the top of the sixth. The ensuing result was not what the veteran manager wanted. Though quite possibly was what too many in the crowd of 18,881 feared.

Nelson Cruz’s three-run homer off Jacob Turner turned the Nationals’ two-run lead into a one-run deficit and ultimately proved the critical moment during a 4-2 loss to the Mariners in their bumped-up series finale on South Capitol Street.

Cruz’s blast to left-center came moments after Baker pulled starter Gio Gonzalez - who carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning but retired only three of the final eight batters he faced - and served as yet another black mark on a Nationals bullpen that can’t seem to get out of its own way.

Jacob-Turner-Throws-Gray-Sidebar.jpgTurner had recently been moved back into a relief role, thanks to the reemergence of Joe Ross as the club’s No. 5 starter. The Nationals liked the right-hander’s ability to pitch multiple innings and felt he was most valuable to the team in that role. But his first appearance in this current stint out of the ‘pen proved disastrous.

The relievers who followed didn’t help matters a whole lot, either. Matt Grace gave up an RBI single to Robinson Canó in the seventh, extending the deficit to 4-2. Blake Treinen walked Cruz but did escape a bases-loaded jam thanks to a nifty 4-6-3 double play started by Daniel Murphy’s diving stop.

The Nationals couldn’t mount a late rally against the Mariners, who in closing this one out managed to win their first-ever game in Washington in their ninth-ever attempt.

This game originally was scheduled to begin at 4:05 p.m. but was bumped up four hours in an attempt to beat the rain. It proved a smart move because much of the game was played in sunshine and only partial cloud cover. And the way both starting pitchers were dealing early, it didn’t look like rain would be anything close to a factor in this one.

Both Gonzalez and Ariel Miranda opened the afternoon with four hitless innings, even if neither did so in completely dominant fashion. Gonzalez walked two and needed 60 pitches to complete his first four frames. Miranda allowed a walk and saw a batter reach via error, throwing 55 pitches to complete his first four frames.

The Mariners dashed Gonzalez’s no-hit bid on Kyle Seager’s one-out double in the top of the fifth. The Nationals dashed Miranda’s hopes in more dramatic fashion, with Anthony Rendon homering to lead off the bottom of the fifth, his fourth home run of the series.

Jayson Werth’s RBI single later in the inning scored Jose Lobaton and gave the Nats a 2-0 lead. But that lead was short-lived.

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