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Nationals blow lead late, but beat Marlins to avoid sweep with ghost runner run, 5-4 final in Miami...

Ghost runners are still stupid, but the Nationals beat the Marlins with their free runner tonight...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Gray vs Miami:

Josiah Gray struck out a season-high 10 batters in 5 23 IP when he faced the Miami Marlins in D.C. back on April 26th, but he took the mound tonight coming off a rough outing in his previous start, which saw the 24-year-old right-hander give up six hits (three homers), two walks, and six earned runs, five of them in a rough first in which he struggled to command his pitches against a strong Houston Astros’ lineup.

“I tried to look at the game to see what was going on,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters after Gray’s seventh start of the year, “... but his misses were right down the middle. Those guys are good hitters, so — he settled down, he started throwing more changeups, which was kind of nice, but he settled down — after that, we gave up one single after the third inning. Like I said, he’s learning, he’s battling, he’s understanding what he needs to do, and he gave us six strong innings.”

Going up against the Marlins for the second time this season tonight, Gray took the mound with a 1-0 lead, but gave it up two batters in, with Jazz Chisholm, Jr. tripling to right field on a 2-2 curve, and scoring on a sac fly by Jesús Aguilar, 1-1.

Miguel Rojas and Erik Gonzalez hit back-to-back singles in the first two at-bats in the bottom of the third, and Gray hit Jazz Chisholm, Jr. in the foot with a 3-2 curveball to load the bases with no one out. Jesús Aguilar lined out to short for the first out of the frame, but a sac fly to center by Garrett Cooper made it a one-run game, 3-2 Nationals. Gray held it there though, limiting the damage.

Gray gave up another pair of singles, these ones by Brian Anderson and Jesús Sánchez, in the bottom of the fourth, but he got two outs without the runners advancing, and got the third out on a grounder to first which ended a 16-pitch frame that left him at 66 total with the Nationals still up by a run.

Jazz Chisholm, Jr. tied it up with one swing though, hitting a 3-2 fastball from Gray 412 feet to right-center field for a game-tying leadoff blast in the bottom of the fifth, 3-3. No. 7 this season for Chisholm, Jr. And it was a bomb:

Gray struck out the side in a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth, which ended his outing after 95 pitches overall. The three Ks gave him seven total from 25 batters faced...

Josiah Gray’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 95 P, 65 S, 3/5 GO/FO.

López Has Had A 1.05 ERA:

Pablo López’s 1.05 ERA going into tonight’s game was the lowest among qualified starters in the majors, and the 26-year-old right-hander had a stingy .175/.216/.253 line against in seven starts and 43 IP on the season.

López struck out 11 of 25 batters he faced while giving up just a run on three hits over seven innings against the Milwaukee Brewers last time out before tonight.

Last time he faced the Nationals, on April 27th in D.C., he tossed six scoreless while striking out six in an 84-pitch outing. Tonight, he was up to 82 after three, and out of the game with the Marlins trailing 3-1...

A leadoff triple by César Hernández, a walk to Juan Soto, and a passed ball on a low pitch that beat catcher Jacob Stalling five-hole allowed Hernández to score, 1-0. Soto moved to second on the passed ball, and took third on a Josh Bell fly to right, but Nelson Cruz K’d a batter later, swinging at a high fastball, as did Yadiel Hernández.

Keibert Ruiz ambushed López on a first-pitch cutter, lining it to right for a leadoff double in the top of the second, and he moved up a sac fly by Maikel Franco, then scored on a two-out double to left by Alcides Escobar, who lined a 2-2 changeup into the corner, 2-1, and 3-1 on a third double, this one hit by César Hernández, who was a homer and single away from hitting for the cycle after two plate appearances.

A one-out walk to Nelson Cruz and two-out walk to Keibert Ruiz pushed López up to 80 total pitches in 2 23 IP, and got movement started in the Marlins’ bullpen, but two pitches later he was out of what ended up being his last inning.

Pablo López’s Line: 3.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 Ks, 82 P, 44 S, 3/2 GO/FO.

Bullpen Action:

Marlins’ righty Tommy Nance retired the Nationals in order in a 12-pitch fourth, as the Fish went to the pen early with Pablo López up to 82 pitches after three innings.

Nance worked around a leadoff walk to Juan Soto in the top of the fifth, to keep it a one-run game in the Nationals’ favor.

Dylan Floro took over for the Marlins in a 3-3 game in the sixth, back gave up back-to-back singles by Keibert Ruiz and Maikel Franco, both opposite field, Ruiz to right, and Franco to left, but three outs later, the score was still tied after Lane Thomas sent a fly ball to left field, Alcides Escobar grounded into a force at second, and César Hernández K’d swinging.

Tanner Scott issued the third walk of the night to Juan Soto in the top of the seventh, but he got a double play out of Josh Bell, and a backwards K out of Nelson Cruz to end a scoreless, 16-pitch frame.

Carl Edwards, Jr. worked around a 2-out walk in a 19-pitch seventh.

Yadiel Hernández singled, Keibert Ruiz walked, and Maikel Franco loaded the bases with the second single of the inning off righty Anthony Bender in the eighth, then Bender hit Lane Thomas on the left forearm with the last pitch he threw, forcing in the go-ahead run before he was done, 4-3 Nationals.

That was all the Nats got out of the opportunity though, with Alcides Escobar striking out before César Hernández grounded into an inning-ending, and rally-killing 6-4-3 DP, which left the Nationals 3 for 16 with RISP and nine left on base. Cole Sulser took over after the HBP and got out the Marlins out of the inning.

Kyle Finnegan got the eighth for the Nationals, with a 4-3 lead, and retired the Marlins in order in a seven-pitch frame.

Tanner Rainey took the mound in the ninth in his first save opportunity and second overall appearance since May 8th, and the closer gave up a hit by Jesús Sánchez who shot a one-hop grounder over the mound and out to second base at 113+ MPH.

Rainey threw a nasty 1-2 slider under Jacob Stallings’ bat for out No. 1, but he walked the next batter, Miguel Rojas, to put two on.

Erik González stepped in next, and with Bryan De La Cruz on to run for Rojas, and Jazz Chisholm, Jr. watching from the on-deck circle, Rainey walked him to load the bases.

Chisholm, Jr. lined a game-tying sac fly to right on the first pitch he saw... or did he? Well, he lined one to right, but the Nationals appealed to third base and the umpire ruled that Sánchez left third too early, so it ends on a game-tying double play when the Nats threw over to to third to check... or does it?

The Marlins challenged the call, and after around four minutes of looking at it, the call was reversed. So, Chisholm, Jr. does tie it.

There’s still a free runner in extra innings because Rob Manfred hates baseball, and we want to save pitchers’ arms, or whatever, and the Nationals drove their free runner in in the top of the 10th, with Dee-Strange Gordon (pinch ghosting in place of Nelson Cruz) moving up on a bunt by Victor Robles and scoring on a Keibert Ruiz double, 5-4. Ruiz took third on a ground ball by Maikel Franco, but was stranded there.

Victor Arano got the bottom of the 10th, with another one-run lead, and he got two outs as ghost runner Anthony Bass took third on the second, a fly to center, but a groundout off of Brian Anderson’s bat ended the game.

Nationals now 13-26