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Washington Nationals Take First Two Of Three From Miami Marlins With Pitching, Defense And Just Enough Hitting.

Apr 21, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) throws in the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
Apr 21, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) throws in the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

In Friday night's win it was Rick Ankiel with a solo home run in the third and a double in the eighth after which Ian Desmond drove him in for the second of two runs in the Washington Nationals' 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins. Saturday afternoon it was Desmond and Jayson Werth with solo home runs off Marlins' right-hander Anibal Sanchez in the sixth and seventh, respectively, and Desmond again in the 10th with a walk-off sac fly as the Nats took the first two of three in the weekend series with the Fish. "It seemed like a rewind, a movie from last night's game," Marlins' manager Ozzie Guillen told reporters after Saturday's loss as quoted on FOX Sports South, "Exactly the same game. Two home runs, very good pitching. Very great pitching. I think anybody who watched the couple games we played here, that's some pretty good baseball. A lot of competition, a lot of fight. But, unfortunately we lost both, but we've got to come back tomorrow and hopefully we start swinging the bats a little bit better."

"We've faced a pretty good pitching staff," Guillen continued, "There's no... you can't deny that. Hopefully tomorrow we swing the bats better. We had better opportunities early in the game, we just didn't take advantage." Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg combined for 12.0 scoreless, giving up seven hits and two walks while collecting 13 K's in the first two games of the series. Friday night the bullpen held the lead with Henry Rodriguez earning the save. Saturday Brad Lidge blew the save before the Nationals won in extra innings. Marlins' outfielder Greg Dobbs told FOX Sports South's Allison Williams that his manager was right and it won't get any easier. "They've got some good arms," Dobbs said, "And they've got another going tomorrow, Gio Gonzalez."

"We were able to get to their bullpen today," Dobbs said, "but it just wasn't enough. We just fell short, but battled back. Strasburg threw really well, kept us off-balance, kept us off the basepaths, but we were able to scrape some together right there at the end." In Stephen Strasburg's last three starts against the Nats' NL East rivals since returning from Tommy John surgery, the 23-year-old right-hander has allowed nine hits, three walks and just one earned run in 18.0 IP. "Strasburg was Strasburg," Davey Johnson told reporters after today's game, "He was great." The Nats' manager said he lifted Strasburg after six innings and 94 pitches, when his spot led off the bottom of the frame because, "... it's too early for me to let him hit and go one more inning. That one more inning may be invaluable later in the year."

It was one of two comments the Nats' skipper made about Strasburg's innings limit after today's game. In discussing the start of the Nats' '09 1st Round pick's season, Johnson said, "[Strasburg's] been very consistent. Pounding the strike zone, that's him. I don't think his command has been as sharp as it will get as the season goes on. His feel. He missed basically all of last year, so I'm not really babying him, but I'm not treating him any different than I would treat any starting pitcher I had starting the year."

"If he'd a little bit shorter inning in the sixth," Davey Johnson said, explainging how he'd considered sticking with Strasburg, but instead it was a 23-pitch frame. "I was awfully tempted. I was waffling over there, but all my instincts said no, save a little inning here, save an inning there, being that he's on an innings count." It wasn't just the pitch total or the innings limit, though Johnson did say he would only have let Strasburg go up to 105-110 pitches anyway, but as he said simply, "I was confident my pen could hold'em." The pen didn't, of course, Brad Lidge, in particular, gave up a leadoff walk in the Marlins' ninth, throwing four straight pitches out of the zone after starting 0-2 against Hanley Ramirez and then leaving a 91 mph 0-1 fastball up inside for Logan Morrison to crush for a two-run blast to the second deck in right.

The blown save was the second in four opportunities for the 35-year-old Lidge, who has shared the late inning duties with Henry Rodriguez so far this year as the Nationals await Drew Storen's return. Davey Johnson said he hadn't lost faith in the veteran Lidge though. "I still like Brad Lidge," the manager said, "I didn't so much mind the home run, but getting ahead of Ramirez and walking him was the mistake of the inning. Just can't do that. Not in a close ballgame, you can't walk the leadoff hitter and I think he had him 0-2. And ended up walking him. But, he battled and got out of the inning and gave us a chance to win the ballgame."

Wilson Ramos singled to start the Nationals' 10th, after a scoreless top of the frame by Tom Gorzelanny, and Ian Desmond made the Marlins pay for Gaby Sanchez's throwing error on a potential double play off Adam LaRoche's bat, when Desmond drove Ramos in from third after he'd taken the base the extra base when Sanchez's throw sailed on Jose Reyes.

The Nats' manager's impressed with what Ian Desmond's been able to do so far this season. "[Desmond's] through messing around and experimenting with all these extraneous thoughts," Davey Johnson said, "He's just concentrating on what he can do and staying within himself and controlling his energy level. He's got a tremendous amount of energy and is just a great athlete." An athlete who hit a home run today, made a potential game-saving play on a sharp grounder to short by Giancarlo Stanton that followed a leadoff single by Logan Morrison in the eighth, before the Nats blew their lead and needed Desmond to come through again.

The 1 for 4 day at the plate left Desmond with a .294/.319/.441 line, four doubles and two home runs after 15 games and 68 at bats. Jayson Werth came through with a home run, his first of the year, off a pitcher he's never fared well against in his career and on a day the Nationals scratched Ryan Zimmerman late and started two veterans, Mark DeRosa and Chad Tracy in the infield, they got the same strong starting pitching they've been getting and did enough to win, improving to 12-4 on the year and winning their fifth straight series to start the season. And Greg Dobbs is right, it doesn't get any easier for Miami tomorrow against Gio Gonzalez.