Adam Conley was rolling through 6 ⅓ innings last night, striking out eight batters on a relatively efficient pitch count, but with one down in the Washington Nationals' half of the seventh inning, things fell apart for the 25-year-old left-hander. It started with a 92 mph full-count fastball to Jayson Werth that ended up in the bright blue waters of the Red Grooms' HR sculpture in left-center field in Marlins Park.
While Werth and his teammates were still celebrating his 200th career home run, Wilson Ramos stepped in against Conley and hit a first-pitch breaking ball out to left field for the second of back-to-back blasts, bouncing one off the top of the out-of-town scoreboard for a solo shot that made it 2-0 Nats.
A fly to right followed for out No. 2 of the Nationals' seventh, but a single by Stephen Strasburg and double by Michael A. Taylor ended Conley's night, and a walk by Anthony Rendon, with Nick Wittgren on the mound, loaded the bases in front of Bryce Harper, who took Marlins' lefty Chris Narveson deep for a grand slam that blew things wide open.
Ryan Zimmerman followed with a solo shot in the next at bat, but the damage had already been done at that point.
"The young man was pitching over there," Dusty Baker said, referring to Conley.
"He mixed in some inside fastballs that kept you honest and faded it away and had a good changeup. He was throwing well, I mean, big time, both of them were, [Stephen Strasburg] and him."
Strasburg matched Conley through six scoreless, and went back out after the Nationals went up 7-0 and tossed two more before he was done for the night, having earned his third win in three starts while lowering his ERA to 1.25.
"It was a pitchers' duel until that seventh," Baker said, "until Jayson hit that monumental home run, his 200th home run and then after that Ramos and next thing you know we have seven runs, capped off by the big grand slam again by Harp. And so, boy, that was a tough game. The score didn't indicate really -- but we're a team that's capable of big innings. You can tell what happened that one inning."
Baker was asked what happened to allow the Nationals to flip the switch like they did in the seventh?
"You just don't flip the switch because you want to," he laughed. "If we'd have wanted to, we'd have flipped it a long time ago. I was getting a little nervous. You don't know if it was the third time around, guys are seeing somebody, because we didn't really know much about that young man, but I tell you, he was throwing the ball well and you don't ask why or how come, you just accept it."
"I don't know. I started a party I guess," Jayson Werth told MASN's Dan Kolko when asked what changed that inning.
"I don't know what happened. But we saw a pretty good pitcher last night and the guy that we faced tonight, he had some good stuff. I think there towards the end I think he got tired and we were able to get to him."
"He just seemed to run out of gas a little bit," Marlins' skipper Don Mattingly explained, "and that's something we've got to watch, we've got to find out where that spot is, but I thought he was really good tonight."
Harper said Werth's blast definitely loosened the Nationals up a bit.
"I think that first one on the board, you think you're going to win that ballgame, because of the way [Strasburg] is throwing and the way your bullpen has been throwing, so I think everybody just -- doesn't relax, but a calm goes over the dugout just to play, have some fun and have good at bats."
Harper's at bat, against Narveson, was particularly impressive. He got ahead in the count, 2-1 and got a pitch he was looking for and lined it to right (at 107.2 mph) and sent it 408 ft into the right field seats.
Harper was 0 for 3 before the slam, which was his second career grand slam... after he hit his first last week.
"The first three at bats I was a little narrow with my stance and I was wondering what was going on," he explained after the game, "and I think that's what my problem was and then that at bat, got 2-0, he was throwing me that changeup, felt pretty narrow again on my stance, I spread out a little bit more, it was possible I was going to get that cutter -- he threw it to me at our place, and drove it in the gap, so just tried to get around it a little bit more and see what I could do.
"I was trying to go deep to tell you the truth, so, and it happened. Got a good pitch to drive and did my job."