They could have blown the Fish out of the water.
The Washington Nationals (66-65) put runners on base in every inning but one against the Miami Marlins (49-81), and collected nine hits off the National League’s worst team.
The Nationals settled for a “W” by the score of 2-1 on Tuesday night, and despite the lack of the lopsided score the Nationals could have produced, a win’s a win.
The Nats jumped out to an early lead after singles from Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond plus an RBI-ground out from Jayson Werth put them up 2-0 in the first inning.
But after the opening frame, the bats went quiet. Washington went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position the rest of the night, and left eight men on base.
Fortunately for the offense, the bullpen stole the show.
Starter Ross Ohlendorf cruised through five innings, but was pulled after facing just one batter in the sixth inning. The lone batter was Christian Yelich, who lofted his second home run of the season into the Nationals’ bullpen.
The home run ball landed beside Tanner Roark, who trotted out to replace Ohlendorf after the Marlins scored their run. His scoreless outing was as stellar as nearly all his appearances have been this year.
Roark walked two batters, but followed up with two big strikeouts to end the sixth inning. He has given up only three runs – two of them earned – in 17 and one-third innings with the Nationals this month.
Drew Storen threw six pitches to get three outs in the seventh inning, and Tyler Clippard followed with another effortlessly dominant outing, striking out two in a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth inning, begging the question why Davey Johnson continues to turn to Rafael Soriano in the ninth.
Though they have pitched for nearly identical end results in the month of August before Tuesday– Soriano has seven saves to Clippard’s seven holds, though Soriano has blown two saves – Soriano’s August ERA (6.97) is more than double Clippard’s (3.09).
In his post-game press conference, Johnson said he never considered keeping Clippard in to pitch the ninth, and that he is not going to make a closer switch. On Tuesday, that mentality paid off, as Soriano closed out the game, giving up only a two-out single, to earn his 34th save of the season.
Though the Nationals made some mistakes and could have come away with a more dominant victory, they still pushed their record above .500, a feat they have seldom accomplished this year. Tomorrow will provide them with another tantalizing opportunity to keep their record rising.