One day after busting their four-game skid, the Washington Nationals reverted to that same toothless form against the Miami Marlins, even with a healthy Adam LaRoche.
Giancarlo Stanton was 3-for-4 with a home run and a double, and the Nationals (25-26) could hardly scratch Nathan Eovaldi as they fell for just the second time in seven games against the Marlins (27-25) this year, losing 3-2.
Stanton was a force early, hitting a double and getting driven in in the first, and crushing a two-run homer to dead center in the third to put Miami on top 3-0. The home run ball struck a wall roughly 20 feet beyond the 402-foot sign in centerfield, and was still at least ten feet in the air, so an estimated distance of 440+ feet would not be unfair. It was also his NL-leading 15th shot of the season, putting him on pace for 47 long-balls on the year. An eighth inning single gave him three hits on the afternoon.
Stanton matched or exceeded the output of the entire Nats lineup in hits, runs scored, RBI, and home run, with three, two, three, and one respectively. The Nats total had three hits, two runs scored, two RBI, and one home run.
The rest of the Marlins’ lineup was not much of a threat. Apart from a 2-for-4 day from Casey McGehee, they went 2-for-24 against Tanner Roark and the Nats’ relievers.
Roark (L, 3-3) had a successful outing despite early, Stanton-induced troubles. He gave up three runs in the first three innings, but allowed just two hits for the rest of his outing. Pinch-hit for in the seventh, his final line was seven innings pitched, five hits, three earned runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. Manager Matt Williams said “it was a bit hit and miss with his command” early, but was happy with how he “settled in” as the game went on.
Unfortunately, Eovaldi (W, 4-2) was even better than Roark, or at least benefited from not having to face Stanton. Through five innings, the Nats could find no purchase against him. Wilson Ramos’ double in the second was the only hit on his record.
“He’s got the hardest fastball in the game, and if he can command it, it’s tough to hit,” Williams said of Eovaldi. “Today he did.”
But in the sixth, the Nats got to him, with a Jayson Werth single and a home run by LaRoche, his first since returning from the disabled list on Sunday, to cut the deficit to 3-2. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly as of late, that would be all the life the Nats showed.
Eovaldi was pulled midway through the seventh and left with a nice line: 6.1 innings, three hits, two earned runs, one walk, and five strikeouts. From there, the much-maligned Miami bullpen, which has actually been 19th in ERA so far this season at a not-terrible 3.90, picked up where Eovaldi left off. Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos, and Steve Cishek retired all eight Nats they faced in order to lock the game down.
Anthony Rendon walked again today, for the ninth time in his last eight games played. That amounts to an unreal 24% walk rate in this short span. He still isn’t hitting, going 4-for-27 in those games (.148), but it’s nice to see him pick up the plate discipline after not walking much at the beginning of the year. There is a bit of worry that he might be walking so much because he’s lost confidence in his swing and therefore stopped swinging as much, like Indians 3B/C Carlos Santana this season, but he has such good contact skills that he should rediscover his stroke soon enough.
After the game, Williams said that Ryan Zimmerman had been cleared to resume baseball activities, including swinging a bat. This is big news, given the slow recovery he has had in returning from his fractured thumb and how desperately the lineup needs his presence. There is still no set timetable for his return, and Williams said that “we still have to be careful” and that “we’re going to take it a little slow with the bat,” but acknowledged this as “the next step” in Zimmerman’s recovery.