Jul 30, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: At the end of a long trip that started off fantastic but hit a snag in recent days, the Nationals desperately needed a victory in their series finale against the Marlins. They got one, thanks to another big-time performance from Tanner Roark and some long-awaited clutch hits late.
Roark tossed seven innings of 1-run ball, his 14th quality start in 21 appearances this season, earning his team-leading 11th win in the process. He was credited with that win after a 3-run rally by his teammates in the top of the eighth, they key production coming from Scott Hairston (leadoff double), Jayson Werth (go-ahead sac fly) and Ian Desmond (2-run double).
Then came a surprising conclusion to the game. Up 3 runs in the ninth, Matt Williams gave the ball not to Rafael Soriano (who blew Monday night’s 3-run lead and was given Tuesday off due to his heavy usage) but instead to Drew Storen. Storen made it interesting, giving up a leadoff homer to Giancarlo Stanton, a broken-bat infield single to Marcell Ozuna, a double off the end of the bat to Adeiny Hechavarria and then a walk to Jarrod Saltamacchia. But with the tying run on second, he got Reed Johnson to earn his first save of the season and send the Nationals home with a 5-4 record on the road trip.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: It was a struggle all day at the plate, but finally the Nationals broke through in the top of the eighth, a rally ignited by an oft-forgotten face. Hairston, who had only 34 plate appearances since May 19 despite being on the active roster the entire time, led off the inning and roped a base hit to left-center. Then he turned on the afterburners and wound up with a hustle double. That set the stage for Denard Span to beat out a perfectly placed sac bunt attempt. Werth’s broken-bat sac fly to left brought home Nate McLouth (who was pinch-running for Hairston), but the Nationals weren’t done yet. Adam LaRoche drew a walk, then stole second base (yes, you read that correctly) to put himself in position to score on Desmond’s 2-run double. Just like that, a 1-1 game turned into a 4-1 lead.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: It’s tough to ask for much more out of Roark than this. The right-hander made one mistake over seven sparkling innings, leaving a 3-1 fastball over the plate to Jordany Valdespin, who belted it into the second deck in right field. Otherwise, Roark was fantastic as always, keeping the Marlins off-balance with his array of pitches. He wound up allowing just the one run on three hits, extending the Nationals’ recent run of dominant starting pitching. Over the last six games, Nats starters have given up a total of six earned runs in 42 innings.
KEY STAT: The Nationals haven’t homered in their last seven games.
UP NEXT: The Nats at long last return home, but they won’t be getting any time off. They’re right back on the field at 7:05 p.m. Thursday facing the Phillies. Gio Gonzalez and Cliff Lee square off in a matchup of left-handers.
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