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MIAMI — What made Joan Adon’s 94th and final pitch so significant Friday wasn’t so much that he cornered former teammate Josh Bell with runners to end the sixth inning. So he knocked him down.
Adon threw an 89.4 mph change that started on the outside edge of the plate and ran away from Bell’s bat. Bell couldn’t help but swing. The crowd groaned. Bell sauntered back to his shelter. And Adon struck his chest twice with his fist as he left the hill.
Adon allowed just two hits, both in the sixth inning, and didn’t allow a run in Friday night’s 7-4 Washington Nationals win at LoanDepot Park. The Miami Marlins recorded five straight hits against Mason Thompson in the seventh round after Adon was eliminated, cutting the Nationals lead from 6-0 to 6-4. But the Nationals held them back, defeating the Marlins for the first time this season after being defeated in two previous series.
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The Nationals (60-69) left bottom in the National League East after the Mets were out later Friday night.
“His fastball was good. His breakball was good. His move…” Manager Dave Martinez paused. “His move today was really, really good. This made all the other pitches much better. He attacked the zone. And when he does that, he’s really effective.”
The move to Bell highlighted what made Adon a very different pitcher this season. A year ago, he relied primarily on his fastball and curveball, throwing them 65.5 percent and 23.2 percent of the time, respectively. This season, Adon has lowered his fastball effort to 39.4 percent and adds four more pitches that are more effective: Curveball (27.4 percent), Sinker (13.5), Slider (10.0), and Change – Up (9.7).
Manager Dave Martinez wanted Adon to make more use of his move last season as he made 14 starts for the Nationals. But Adon’s lack of confidence in his secondary pitches was one of the reasons he came in with a 7.10 ERA at 1-12 and was demoted to minor in June of that year. That came after he conceded eight runs over three innings at the same stadium where he served on Friday night. Much has changed for Adon since then.
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“I feel like I’ve come a long way, especially coming into that same clubhouse and knowing what happened last season,” Adon said through an interpreter. “And it was in the same locker I was in. I arrived at the stadium today and thought about it a bit. But today I said to myself that we will make it today.”
Long before Adon beat Bell, CJ Abrams showed in the first inning just how much he could influence a game on the base paths. He scored a single, advanced to second with a groundball from Lane Thomas, stole third and scored with a slow roller from Joey Meneses in the infield to give the Nationals an early 1-0 lead. Carter Kieboom added a two-run home run in the sixth. The Nationals added three more runs in the seventh thanks to a two-run double from Meneses and an RBI single from Keibert Ruiz. Alex Call managed an RBI single in the eighth round.
But Friday night belonged to Adon, who scored a no-hitter in the sixth round. His pitch mix didn’t result in many swings and misses—seven out of 44 swings—but many of those swings were off balance. The Marlins had just two runners in the first five innings — one from an outfield misplay when Call and Thomas collided on a flyball, the other when Adon hit Bryan De La Cruz with a pitch in the fifth.
It wasn’t until Jazz Chisholm hit a groundball in the sixth round that bounced off second base and under Abrams’ glove that the Marlins (65-64) scored their first goal. The game was initially rated as a mistake. Luis Arraez hit a single two batters later before Bell struck to end the inning and Adon’s night.
“He’s calm and in control,” Kieboom said. “I saw him do that in Triple-A and he looks the same here. He doesn’t change anything and knows what he has to do. He owns it; He owns the hill. … That’s the key to a great starter, having a face of stone, and he has it.”
After Thompson was eliminated, Robert Garcia scored two goals against the team that had picked him up earlier in the year. Hunter Harvey earned the save.
The Nationals have been one of the best teams in Major League Baseball since the All-Star break, improving to 24-15. A common theme of their recent success has been the positive development of their young players. Her progress wasn’t always linear, but it was driven by small things – like a well-executed transition.
“He’s got a good result and he needs to add more and throw a little more,” Martinez said. “But he used it perfectly today, as I said, he had a great movement. It was a big moment for him right there. He can take out Bell, which isn’t easy.”
Remarks: Outfielder Stone Garrett underwent surgery Friday afternoon for his fractured left fibula, but Martinez had no information on Garrett’s condition ahead of the game. Garrett was placed on the 10-day injured list after sustaining the injury when he hit the wall at Yankee Stadium. …
Tanner Rainey, who was recovering from surgery on Tommy John, threw 24 pitches in his final rehab start Thursday for Class AA Harrisburg. Rainey has now completed three rehab appearances in the past week, one against Fredericksburg with a low Class A and two against Harrisburg. On his last outing, he performed two batsmen and hit two. …
Thaddeus Ward, out since July 3 with a right shoulder infection, pitched four innings scoreless in his last game for the High Class A Wilmington. Ward threw 51 pitches and fastballed for up to 96 miles per hour. Martinez said the team will continue to utilize him in hopes he can later contribute to their six-man rotation.
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