The Washington Nationals put together a big fourth inning last night to take control of the series opener with the Miami Marlins, and they were up 6-1 after Jayson Werth doubled in a run in the fifth.
The Marlins scored two runs on Nats' lefty Gio Gonzalez, with the second run in the sixth making it a 6-2 game.
Gonzalez completed seven innings of work, Craig Stammen retired the Fish in order in the eighth and with a four-run lead, Nationals' manager Matt Williams turned to Rafael Soriano in the ninth, giving the 34-year-old reliever another opportunity to get back on track.
Last time out in Miami, Soriano took the mound with a 6-3 lead back on July 28th and gave up a leadoff walk, single, double, sac fly and RBI triple as the Marlins ralllied to tie it and eventually win 7-6 on a walkoff single by Jeff Baker after Jerry Blevins took over for the now-former Nats' closer.
Things went a lot better for Soriano last night as he retired the side in order in a 15-pitch, nine-strike, 1-2-3 frame.
Williams was happy with what he saw.
"A lot of breaking balls down in the zone tonight which is good," he told reporters after the game.
"It's a little bit bigger tilt breaking ball tonight, but ball is down. He got ahead two strikes and threw a high fastball for a strikeout, but the majority of them were down in the strike zone away from the righty, so that's good."
The work Soriano has done as he tries to regain his first-half form produced some positive results according to Williams.
"Those mechanical things are proven to be good for him and I was really impressed with the breaking ball tonight."
A strong outing, the Nats' skipper said, was good for the reliever.
"It's important for him," Williams said. "We've got confidence in him. It's not too long ago that he was considered for the All-Star team. It's not that there's a different guy. He got a little bit out of whack mechanically and paid for it, but he's working hard to get back to it and get back to being able to throw the ball where he wants to, so that's important."
What role is Soriano going to play going forward?
Can he turn things around and help out of the pen in the postseason?
There are ten games left for him to sort things out and Williams has been clear that he will give him opportunities.
While you consider what role Soriano might play in the Nats' postseason bullpen, why not check out some links?
Links and lots of them, starting... RIGHT NOW!!!:
• THE BIG STORY!!:
• "'For myself, I still think about the disappointment of ‘12,' Rizzo says. 'It fuels me. It makes me pay more attention to detail. It makes me work a few extra hours. And I think the guys feel this way, too.'" - "Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says 2012 loss fuels me,' a word about what NY Mets fans are losing with Kevin Burkhardt movin' on up" - Andy Martino, NY Daily News
• NATS BEAT:
• "They won the NL East because of a group of Mike Rizzo moments that added up to the 2014 Nationals." - "Mike Rizzo truly the architect of NL East champion Washington Nationals" - Thom Loverro, Washington Times
• "The Nationals have been moving steadily in the right direction, especially since Rizzo took over the entire baseball operation in 2009." - "Rizzo's guidance has Nats soaring high into October" - Richard Justice, nationals.com
#Nats fans: Thanks to your enthusiasm, tix for today’s NLDS Presale sold out in<30 min. Limited # of NLDS tix will be released Mon. at 10 am— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 19, 2014
• "Ryan Zimmerman said he's getting closer to being 100 percent healthy, but there's still no timetable on when the injured veteran third baseman will return to Washington's lineup." - "Improving Zimmerman tests hammy, unsure of return" - Steve Dorsey, nationals.com
• "Ryan Zimmerman served as a designated hitter in intrasquad games in the instructional league in Viera on Thursday and went 1 for 7, according to Nationals Manager Matt Williams." - "Ryan Zimmerman DH’s in Viera, tests hamstring" - James Wagner, Washington Post
• "In recent weeks, Gonzalez has been sharper than ever. He has a 2.79 ERA over the past 38 2/3 innings spread over six starts." - "Gio Gonzalez hitting a groove at the right time" - James Wagner, Washington Post
• "'I basically pitched for free,' he said with a huge grin. 'You don’t mind pulling out the Amex card for that.'" - "Gio Gonzalez rolls in front of home crowd as the Nationals beat the Marlins, 6-2" - Tom Schad, Washington Times
• "Gonzalez continued his string of solid outings by pitching well in his hometown in front of lots of family members and friends..." - "Nationals Pastime: Williams recaps Nats' 6-2 win over Marlins" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com
• "The Gio Gonzalez who tossed seven innings of 2-run ball Thursday night to lead the Nationals to a 6-2 win over the Marlins looked very much like the guy who won 21 games in 2012." - "Gio Gonzalez returns home and finds his groove again" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider
"That might be the best I've seen him since he's been back from his mini-(DL) stint." -- Matt Williams on @GioGonzalez47 tonight.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 19, 2014
• "The Nationals entered Thursday night leading the Dodgers by 11 / 2 games and reduced their magic number to clinch homefield advantage through the NLCS to eight." - "Gio Gonzalez, Nationals keep pushing for NL’s best record with 6-2 win over Marlins" - Adam Kilgore, The Washington Post
• "When asked if he has a few minutes to chat, Anthony Rendon looks up from his tablet and sits up in his chair. 'About what?' he asks." - "Anthony Rendon does his talking on field for Washington Nationals" - Tom Schad, Washington Times
• "While the rest of the Nationals regulars returned to the lineup Thursday night against the Marlins, Adam LaRoche was given another day off to rest his lower back..." - "Adam LaRoche gets extra day off to rest stiff back" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider
•"The 34-year-old LaRoche, who has been dealing with a sore back for weeks, told manager Matt Williams he was feeling better." - "LaRoche keeping sore back rested for playoff run" - Maria Torres, nationals.com
• "Right now Williams is trying to find the right balance between fielding a healthy club once the postseason begins and fighting for the best record in the National League..." - "Nationals Pastime: Updates on LaRoche and Zimmerman" - Courtney Lofgren, MASNSports.com
• "Florimon, 27, was the Twins’ opening day shortstop but struggled this season and wasn’t a September call-up in Minnesota." - "Nationals claim Pedro Florimon on waivers from Twins" - James Wagner, Washington Post
• "The Nationals are a little thin at shortstop, and Florimon's major league experience was likely attractive to them..." - "Nationals Pastime: Nationals claim shortstop Florimon off waivers from Twins" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com
• "With each passing day, Harper looks like more and more of a force at the plate. Remember when he was hitting a scant .249 back on Aug. 12?" - "Instant analysis: Nats 6, Marlins 2" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider
• "Nationals manager Matt Williams said it's important that his team stays aggressive despite having already clinched the division title." - "Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins - September 19, 2014" - Jamie Ross, MLB.com Preview
• NATIONAL(S) BEAT:
• "The Nationals have a $14.5million club option for Rafael Soriano in 2015, but the chances of it being picked up are slim given the way he has pitched in the last eight weeks." - "The search for next season's saves sources starts now" - Ryan Bloomfield, USA TODAY Sports
• "With a healthy Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez there’s no telling how important Thursday night’s showdown against the Washington Nationals might have been." - "Big inning proves costly for Miami Marlins’ Brad Hand in loss to Washington Nationals" - Manny Navarro, The Miami Herald
• "I’m an unabashed fan of Denard Span, and for my money, he remains one of the game’s most underrated players." - "A Fun Comparison for Denard Span" - Dave Cameron, FanGraphs Baseball
• "With the Nationals' abundance of drafted talent, unexpected contributions from key veterans, smart free agent signings, and emergence of prized young players, it's no wonder they stand as the first National League squad to clinch a playoff berth." - "How the Orioles, Angels, and Nationals turned things around and made the MLB playoffs" - Raleigh McCool, MLB Daily Dish
• "When Spring Training started, the Marlins had an open competition for their fifth starter. Not many gave Koehler much of a chance..." - "Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins - September 19, 2014" - Jamie Ross, MLB.com Preview
• "Securing home-field advantage became a lot easier for the Nationals on Thursday night, when they overcame an early one-run deficit to beat the Marlins, 6-2, at Marlins Park." - "Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins - September 18, 2014" - Maria Torres, MLB.com WSH Recap
• "The Washington Nationals posted five runs – all with two outs – in a fourth inning rout to help pave the way for a 6-2 win over the Miami Marlins Thursday." - "Washington Nationals Game 152 Review: Five-Run Fourth Helps Nats Top Marlins" - Alyssa Wolice, District Sports Page
• "Putting Zim Back In" - The Nationals Review
• "Nats’ post-season roster: The bullpen" - Nat Anacostia, Nats Noodles
• "Despite having clinched the NL East, the Washington Nationals (88-64) still have plenty to play for, and they acted like it tonight..." - "Two-Out Rally Pushes Nats Past Miami" - Andrew Flax, The Nats Blog
• "Now that the Washington Nationals have clinched a postseason berth, by virtue of a win at Atlanta Sept. 16, here is a look at 10 storylines, in no certain order, for the team heading into October..." - "Top 10 Storylines For The Nationals Entering Postseason Play" - David Driver, Pressbox DC
• NL EAST UPDATES:
• Braves: "Then, when it is all said and done, the organization will decide whether it will dismiss a general manager or manager for the first time since 1990." - "Braves with decisions to make after disappointing '14" - Mark Bowman, braves.com
• Mets: "According to a massive research project by ESPN: The Magazine, the Mets rank last in fan experience among MLB teams..." - "It’s not easy being a Mets fan, according to ESPN report" - Metsblog
• Marlins: "Since last Friday, the Miami Marlins have hung slugger Giancarlo Stanton's jersey in their dugout. Even in his absence, the two-time All-Star's presence could be felt." - "Giancarlo Stanton visits teammates for first time since injury" - Christina De Nicola, FOX Sports
• Phillies: "Since 2010, the Phillies have had 27 different players patrol one of the outfield spots during a game." - "Guest Post: The Phillies Outfield Sideshow" - Bill Baer, Crashburn Alley