Sep 22, 2013, 4:15 PM EDT
Game in a nutshell: With their backs against the wall in the playoff race, the Nats can’t afford a poor outing from one of their starting pitchers, much less one against the last place Marlins. Dan Haren allowed Miami to take an early lead thanks to a two-run home run by Giancarlo Stanton in the top of the first. He then coughed up a solo shot to Christian Yelich in the third inning. The Nats weren’t able to recover from the early deficit. Though Washington’s offense has been better lately, they were baffled for six innings by Tom Koehler. The right-hander allowed just two runs through six innings and kept them scoreless through the first five frames. He carved the Nats up with remarkable efficiency, needing only 79 pitches to make it six. Ryan Mattheus gave up another run in the seventh inning as the Marlins scored four on the day. The loss means the Atlanta Braves have clinched the National League East, taking the division title for the first time since 2005.
Hitting highlight: The Nats’ lineup as a whole went cold on Sunday afternoon, but Ryan Zimmerman did notch his 26th home run of the season in the bottom of the sixth. Denard Span walked with two outs to bring up Zim who crushed a 2-1 pitch from Koehler to center field. Zimmerman leads the Nationals this season in home runs and now has the second highest season total of his career. He hit 33 in 2009.
Pitching lowlight: The two-run homer Haren allowed to Stanton was a bad one as it came with two outs and two strikes in the first inning. In Haren’s defense, the at-bat was extended by a questionable ball three from home plate ump Fieldin Culbreth. That gave Stanton a full count and he demolished the next pitch opposite field to score two runs. The difference between the Nats with Haren pitching this season and without is quite pronounced. In games he’s started, the Nats are 10-19, a .345 winning percentage. In games with other starting pitchers, the Nats are 73-53, a .579 winning percentage. That equates to a 93-win pace over the course of a full season.
Key stat: Juan Pierre pinch-hit with a single in the seventh inning for hit No. 2,216 of his 14th career. He moved into 174th place in MLB history, passing some guy named Joe DiMaggio.
Up next: The Nats and Marlins will take a quick break before going right back at it in the second game of the doubleheader. Stephen Strasburg (7-9 2.96) returns to the mound after missing his last two starts and Brian Flynn (0-2, 9.64) pitches for Miami in a 7:05 p.m. start.
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