The Nationals seemed like they were on their way to a second straight shutout win over the Miami Marlins on Saturday before a ninth-inning bullpen meltdown and an error by Marlins first baseman Gabby Sanchez led to a 3-2 victory for the Nats.
Ian Desmond drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly to score Wilson Ramos, who had led off the tenth with a single of Edward Mujica (L, 0-1). Ramos took third when Sanchez chose to try to force him out at second on a ground ball from Adam LaRoche. But Sanchez’ throw to Jose Reyes was high and the ball caromed off Reyes’ glove into left field, allowing Ramos to advance and LaRoche in safe at first. Desmond followed with a fly ball to center field, and Ramos easily beat Emilio Bonifacio‘s throw to the plate.
Tom Gorzelanny (W, 1-0) bounced back from a rough outing on Thursday night to pitch a perfect tenth for the win.
Stephen Strasburg pitched six shutout innings, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth homered and Ryan Mattheus and Sean Burnett held the Marlins in check before Brad Lidge allowed a leadoff walk to Hanley Ramirez in the ninth and a two-run homer to Logan Morrison to tie the game.
Strasburg allowed four hits and a walk, striking out six. He was the second straight Nats starter to outduel his Miami counterpart. Anibal Sanchez blanked the Nats on just three hits through the first five innings before they finally found their power.
Desmond put the Nats ahead in the sixth with his second homer of the season, a one-out blast that cleared the Marlins’ bullpen in left field. Werth made it 2-0 an inning later with a leadoff homer, his first of the season, into the first row of seats behind the left field wall.
Mattheus tossed a perfect seventh, and with normal setup man Tyler Clippard unavailable after a taxing performance Friday night, started the eighth. He allowed a leadoff single to Chris Coghlan, but then got some help from Desmond, who ranged deep into the hole at short to field Giancarlo Stanton’s ground ball, then threw out Coghlan at second from the outfield grass. Burnett came on to retire Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez to end the inning.
The win raises the Nationals’ record to 12-4 and gives them their fifth straight series win to open the season. They also are now guaranteed their third winning April since moving to Washington in 2005 and their first since 2010.
Ryan Zimmerman was a late scratch with what the team termed as a strained shoulder. The injury is described as not serious, and Zimmerman is listed as day-to-day. Mark DeRosa started in his place at third base and went 1-for-4. Chad Tracy played third in the 10th.
Champ of the Game: Desmond, who hit a deep homer, made a fine play in the field and then came through with the game-winning RBI in the tenth.
For the Marlins, it was Morrison, who took advantage of Lidge for a deep homer of his won to send the game into extra innings.
Chump of the Game: Lidge, could not find the plate in issuing the leadoff walk and grooved a fastball to Morrison for his second blown save of the season.
For the Marlins, it was Sanchez, who eschewed a sure out for a potential double-play, and turned it into an error that ultimately cost the Marlins the game.
Unsung Hero: Mattheus, who bridged the gap between Strasburg and Burnett almost flawlessly.
For the Marlins, it was Sanchez, who turned in the team’s second straight hard-luck pitching performance.