Apr 16, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Desperate to close out a rough road trip on a high note, the Nationals found themselves in a familiar position tonight: Trailing early. Derek Dietrich’s fourth-inning homer off Tanner Roark left the Nationals in a 3-0 hole and surely left some wondering whether this would continue to spiral downward as several other games have in the last week.
But after they were stymied for five innings by Jose Fernandez, the Nationals’ depleted finally came to life in the sixth. Jayson Werth’s three-run homer tied the game and reinvigorated the dugout. Zach Walters’ second homer in as many nights then gave them the lead in the eighth, with Ian Desmond tacking on a couple of insurance runs shortly after.
Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano closed things out and secured a series victory for the Nationals in Miami, sending them home with a 2-4 record on this road trip and surely looking for better days ahead with an 11-game homestand next on the docket.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The Nationals had nothing to show for their first five innings against Fernandez, but they did consistently make solid contact against the young Marlins ace. You had to wonder if eventually those hard-hit balls would fall in, and sure enough they did in the sixth. None, of course, was hit harder than Werth’s three-run blast to right-center. It was the latest in a string of clutch home runs by the veteran slugger, who since late-2012 has truly established himself as the guy the Nationals turn to when they need to be saved late.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Roark was fantastic the first time through the Marlins’ lineup, breaking four bats (including Giancarlo Stanton’s) and keeping the ball down in the zone. But the right-hander started leaving pitches up the second time around, and Miami’s hitters started to pick him up. Dietrich’s 3-run homer in the fourth could have spelled doom for Roark, but to his credit, he battled back from that ragged inning and kept the deficit at 3-0 through five innings. He even got a chance to take the mound for the seventh after the Nationals had rallied to tie the game. Roark wasn’t the pitcher of record by night’s end, but his efforts over his final 2 1/3 innings undoubtedly helped his team win.
INJURY UPDATE: Bryce Harper was a late scratch from the lineup with tightness in his left quadriceps muscle, an ailment that bothered him during Monday’s game. Meanwhile, Denard Span (concussion) is expected to begin a brief rehab assignment Thursday and come off the 7-day DL when eligible on Saturday. Also, Doug Fister (strained lat) will throw two innings at extended spring training in Viera on Thursday.
KEY STAT: The Nationals have outscored opponents 48-16 after the fifth inning this season.
UP NEXT: After a mostly disappointing road trip, the Nationals return to D.C. for a long stay. They’ll open an 11-game homestand Thursday when the Cardinals come to town. Taylor Jordan faces Adam Wainwright in the series opener at 7:05 p.m.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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