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MIAMI — The Washington Nationals were behind going into the ninth inning on Saturday but still found themselves in an ideal position. Miami Marlins midfielder Jazz Chisholm Jr. dived but couldn’t parry a drive from leadoff player Lane Thomas, the ball bounced off his glove and rolled down the warning lane toward right field, allowing Thomas easily to third base could reach. The deciding run was 90 feet away and the Nationals had three chances to break it in.
Somehow Thomas never scored a goal. Yet, improbably, the Nationals still won, posting a 3-2 win, their 11th win in their last 14 games.
“It was a damn good game,” said Jake Alu, who made the deciding run.
After Thomas’ treble, Joey Meneses was hit 3-1 by Marlin’s closer David Robertson; Jacob Young, who was making his major league debut, ran for him. But then Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez made a jump stop after a groundball from Dominic Smith and had enough time to knock Thomas out at home. The Nationals outfielder lay on his stomach in shock and had his hands in the dirt next to the plate.
“Arraez put on a great game,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. “…He made an unbelievable shot, right on target.”
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But that was just an end. After Carter Kieboom popped out, Alu worked a full count before hitting a single down the middle to score Young.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” Alu said. “I kind of saw the ball well today. … It was finally 3:2. Then he has to strike. I did it.”
And then the scuffle in Miami helped the rising Washington: Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings’ pass ball on the next shot sent Michael Chavis, running for Smith, sprinting home from third base and getting the go-ahead for the run.
The Nationals (61-69) have won five straight series. The Marlins (65-65) have lost eight of their last ten games.
Neither team was able to achieve much in the first seven innings on Saturday. The batters rolled around on the groundballs. They sent off-speed and break pitches high in the air, too far forward. They swung through the pitches in the wheelhouse.
The result was a 1:1 game. In the eighth round, Nationals right-hander Jordan Weems came into play with an out against Jorge Soler. On his first throw, Weems threw a fastball across the middle of the plate and Soler didn’t miss. The ball flew left and gave Miami a 2-1 lead, and the Marlins appeared to have walked away with a win in a game highlighted by young pitchers.
Eury Pérez, the Marlins’ great 20-year-old rookie righty, threw a one-run ball six innings and knocked out seven (the run was undeserved). He knocked out the first eleven batters he faced until Meneses doubled in the fourth. On the ensuing batting attempt, Smith hit a groundball down the middle that shortstop Joey Wendle threw into the Nationals dugout, giving Washington a 1-0 lead.
That was all Washington managed against Pérez, who hit 14 in 45.
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Jake Irvin, the 26-year-old Nationals rookie righty, seems to have gotten stronger as the season progressed and was just as solid through six innings. He walked three times and conceded four but avoided any damage until former international Josh Bell hit a home run down field, who just snuck out in the sixth round to level the score.
“I thought it was great,” Martinez said. “I was really impressed with the way these young kids served. Pérez will be a good player. He already is, but he’s going to be really good and someone to deal with here in the future. But I’m proud of our boys. I’m proud of Jake staying in there, ending the game strong and giving us a chance to win.”
Irvin said he focused on throwing strikes early and attacking the zone.
“The defense played great and the way we’re playing now I just have to make sure we stay in the game and these guys will do their thing,” he added.
The Bullpens held their ground until Soler’s home run ended the tie and Washington recovered. The ninth inning certainly wasn’t what the Nationals had planned, but they again defied convention and prevailed in an impressive second half.
“I think it shows that this team is playing 27 outs,” Alu said. “Lately we’ve just been a fighting team. And we make it.”
Remarks: Before the game, the Nationals recalled Young, a 24-year-old outfielder and seventh-round draft pick in 2021, from Class AAA Rochester and optional infielder Jeter Downs to the Red Wings.
Young has only played four games for Rochester since his promotion from Class AA Harrisburg. During the season, he averaged .305 in three minor league stages with six home runs and 39 stolen bases.
To make room for Young in the 40-man roster, the Nationals put outfielder Stone Garrett on the 60-day injured list. Garrett competed in Thursday’s 10-Day IL after fracturing his fibula in a loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday. Martinez said Garrett’s surgery was successful and he will be re-examined in six weeks.
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