Tonight's Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: Bearded first baseman Adam LaRoche took a 2-1 fastball the other way for an opposite field RBI single that opened up the scoring in the first game of three with the Miami Marlins in D.C. LaRoche got tagged out on the basepaths, but only after giving the Washington Nationals a 1-0 lead early over their NL East rivals.
The Nationals took a 2-0 lead in the sixth when Bryce Harper hit an opposite field single to left on a 3-1 fastball from Marlins' starter Henderson Alvarez, then went first-to-third™ on an Adam LaRoche single to right and scored when Fish catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw to second trying to cut LaRoche down on a wild pitch to Ian Desmond in the next at bat. Another wild pitch moved LaRoche over to third with two down and he scored the third run of the inning when Anthony Rendon singled to center field. 3-0 Nationals after six.
Gio Gonzalez threw six scoreless frames on 101 pitches, holding the Marlins down in spite of a high pitch count.
Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard kept it 3-0 through seven and a half and Anthony Rendon hit a two-run double off the left field fence 377 ft from home to make it 5-0 Nationals after eight. That's how it ended. 2 for 4, 3 RBI night for Rendon. 3 for 3 for Adam LaRoche. Pick your own offensive start of the game...
#Nats President of Baseball Operations & GM Mike Rizzo answered questions from Facebook fans tonight. Catch up here: http://t.co/5n9k9uPGOj— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 9, 2014
4. Stanton Destroys D.C.: Coming into tonight's game, 24-year-old Marlins' slugger Giancarlo Stanton was 10 for 29 (.345/.406/.655) with three doubles and two home runs in the first seven games of the season. Stanton has always hit well in Nationals Park too, posting a fairly ridiculous .336/.420/.796 line with 13 doubles and 13 HRs in 30 games and 131 plate appearances in the nation's capital over his first five major league seasons.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams was asked for his impressions of the hard-hitting Fish outfielder's power and his hot start before this afternoon's game.
"It's incredible, huh?" Williams said. "His leverage is so great. He's such a big man, and strong of course, but it's hard for tall guys -- you look at Tony Clark and Dave Winfield-type guys, it's hard for those guys to create a swing path and keep it consistent because they're so big and their levers are so long. But they all have fantastic power in their own right because when it connects, all of that works really well together and the ball goes a long way. His raw power is -- I don't know if it's matched in the game right now, as far as raw power goes. And I think he's becoming a better hitter certainly, the more he plays and the more maturity he gets. He's certainly had a hot start and hitting balls out of every park. You know the old adage, the only park he can't hit out of is Yellowstone. It's true with him He's a pretty powerful guy."
"He reminds me of Winfield a lot," Williams said when asked for a comparison from his own playing days. "Being from the right side and he's built like him too. Tall and lean and strong, so he reminds me a lot of Dave Winfield."
Stanton stepped in for the first time tonight with a runner on first and one out after Gio Gonzalez walked Marlins' second baseman Jeff Baker, but he flew out to left-center field for the second out of a 15-pitch opening frame by the Nationals' left-handed starter.
Good as he is in Nationals Park, Giancarlo Stanton was just 1 for 10 with a double, two walks and four Ks against Gio Gonzalez coming into tonight's game. A two-out single in the top of the third improved that to 2 for 12 vs Gio. Stanton was first-pitch swinging the third time up and 1 for 3 on the night when he popped out to Adam LaRoche behind first base.
Stanton's fourth at bat of the night came with two down in the top of the eighth against Nats' reliever Tyler Clippard, against whom the Marlins' slugger was 3 for 12 before tonight, and 3 for 13 after he K'd swinging at a 2-2 cutter. Stanton ended the game 1 for 4 w/ one strikeout on the night.
Let's play 3 in D.C. #LetsGoFish pic.twitter.com/TAUwuSlfa9— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) April 8, 2014
3. Fish Fry: Gio Gonzalez, 28, entered tonight's game with a (4-2) career mark in six starts against Miami, over which the left-hander posted a 1.76 ERA, 10 walks (2.20 BB/9) and 44 Ks (9.66 K/9) in 41 IP. Gonzalez held Marlins' hitters to a .190/.243/.246 line in those outings, and last season was even more dominant, going (3-0) with a 0.95 ERA, seven walks (3.32 BB/9) and 16 Ks (7.58 K/9) over three starts and 19 IP in which the Marlins' hitters put up a .185/.264/.262 line.
1st: Gonzalez gave up a walk to Jeff Baker with one down in the top of the first, but a fly to left-center by Giancarlo Stanton and a groundout to short by third baseman Casey McGehee ended a 15-pitch opening frame.
2nd: Marlins' first baseman Garrett Jones bunted his way on in the first at bat of the second when the Nationals went into a dramatic shift against the left-handed pull hitter. Gonzalez got Fish catcher Jarrod Saltamacchia swinging with an 83 mph 1-2 change for the first out of the second and his first K of the night, then issued his second walk of the night to 23-year-old Marlins' outfielder Marcell Ozuna in a nine-pitch at bat, putting two runners on for left fielder Reed Johnson, who flew to center for out no.2. Henderson Alvarez's pop to right ended a 19-pitch second inning that left Gonzalez at 34 overall after two.
3rd: Adeiny Hechavarria made a strong throw from the lip of the left field grass just in time to get Ian Desmond for the first out of the Nationals' second, then started the top of the third with an opposite field single to right on a full-count fastball from Gio Gonzalez. After a quick meeting on the mound with Ian Desmond and Nats' catcher Jose Lobaton, Gonzalez caught Hechavarria breaking early and caught him at second for the first out of the frame. Denard Span showed off his range catching up to a line drive to center off Jeff Baker's bat for out no.2. Giancarlo Stanton sent a sharp grounder through short for a two-out single, but Casey McGehee K'd looking at a 93 mph full-count fastball to end an eight-pitch at bat and a 25-pitch third that left Gonzalez at 59 pitches.
4th: After bunting his way on and beating the shift the first time up, Garrett Jones K'd swinging over a 78 mph 2-2 curve in his second at bat in the top of the fourth. Jarrod Saltalamacchia took a 2-2 curve on the low outside corner for a called strike three and Gio Gonzalez's fourth K and Marcell Ozuna grounded out to second to end a 14-pitch fourth after which Gio Gonzalez was up to 73 pitches.
5th: Reed Johnson sent Denard Span racing back to catch up with a line drive to center Span caught for the first out of the fifth. Henderson Alvarez K'd swinging at a 1-2 curve in the dirt that got away from Jose Lobaton, and a throw to the foul side of first pulled Adam LaRoche off the bag according to first base ump Dan Bellino. The call was reversed, however, after a brief umpire scrum. No explanation, but it looked like Alvarez kicked LaRoche's back foot off the bag. Adeiny Hechavarria worked the count full in the next at bat, but sent a grounder up the middle that Ian Desmond got to before firing a low throw over to first that arrived in time to end a 16-pitch inning after which Gio Gonzalez was up to 89 overall.
• 6th: Gio Gonzalez missed inside with back-to-back fastballs to go to a full count with Jeff Baker in the first at bat of the sixth, but a fly to center field hung up long enough for Denard Span to get under it and make the catch for out no.1 of the Marlins' half of the inning. Giancarlo Stanton popped the first pitch he saw up to Adam LaRoche behind first for a quick out no.2. A fly to right from Casey McGehee ended the sixth with Gonzalez up to 101 pitches after a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.
Gio Gonzalez's Line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 101 P, 60 S, 4/7 GO/FO.
2. Disappearing Offense Again?: The Nationals picked up a run in the first on Adam LaRoche's RBI single off of Marlins' righty Henderson Alvarez, but the 23-year-old former Toronto Blue Jays' prospect followed that up with three scoreless frames in which he allowed just two hits as the Nats' offense once again disappeared for a long stretch. After a scoreless fourth, Alvarez was up to just 48 pitches. An eight-pitch, 1-2-3 frame left him at 56 overall after five.
Bryce Harper hit a one-out opposite field single off Alvarez in the Nats' sixth, improving to 4 for 24 in 2014. A two-out single to center by way of second by Adam LaRoche sent Harper around to third, and the Nationals' outfielder scored on a wild pitch to Ian Desmond when Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw to second trying to cut down LaRoche. 2-0 Nationals. LaRoche took third on a wild pitch/ball four to Ian Desmond then scored when Anthony Rendon lined a 92 mph 3-1 fastball to center for a 3-0 Nats' lead. That was all for Alvarez: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 80 P, 55 S.
1. 5-0 Nats: No.13 for the Nationals, Jerry Blevins, took over for Gio Gonzalez in the top of the seventh, coming out to the mound and warming up to the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil." Blevins gave up a leadoff walk to Garrett Jones, but got a fly to left from Saltalamacchia before he was lifted in favor of Drew Storen. Storen gave up a single by Marcell Ozuna, and a bunt by Reed Johnson moved both runners into scoring position for pinch hitter Greg Dobbs, who flew to left to end the Marlins' seventh. Still 3-0 Nats.
Tyler Clippard took over in the eighth and retired the side in order in a 16-pitch frame...
...And Anthony Rendon took a 95 mph 1-2 fastball from Marlins' lefty Mike Dunn to left field and almost out for a two-run double that made it a 5-0 game. #RENDONCULOUS
Aaron Barrett finished the Fish off in the ninth. 5-0 final.
We'll put it to you, #Nats fans. Keep or lose the #Rendonculous hashtag?— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 9, 2014
Nationals now 5-2.