BOTH THE JAKES:
Jake Alu spit on a 2-2 cutter low and away from Marlins’ closer David Robertson and home plate umpire Pat Holberg called it (correctly) ball three, 3-2, and Washington’s 26-year-old, 2019 24th Round pick rookie hit a full-count curve belt-high outside back up the middle to tie things up at 2-2 in the top of the ninth inning in Miami on Saturday afternoon.
Alu’s RBI single followed a leadoff triple by Lane Thomas, a hit-by-pitch on Joey Meneses, and an out at home plate when Thomas was thrown out by a drawn-in Marlins’ second baseman Luis Arraez as he (Thomas) tried to score after getting off to a slow start watching Dominic Smith’s ground ball to the right side.
Carter Kieboom popped out on the first pitch he saw in the next at-bat, and the home team was a strike away from winning the second of three in loanDepot park when Alu kept it alive with his hit and Michael Chavis, who came on to run for Smith and took third on Alu’s single, scored on a passed ball in the next at-bat, sprinting in from third after alertly monitoring the play as the ball got away from catcher Jacob Stallings, on a pitch inside to Riley Adams, 3-2 Nationals.
Kyle Finnegan got the ball in the bottom of the ninth inning and he worked around a leadoff single for the save.
It was a 1-1 game after six, with both Marlins’ starter Eury Pérez and Nationals’ right-hander Jake Irvin giving up a run in six innings, Pérez on three hits and one walk, Irvin on four hits, and three walks, but Jorge Soler homered off reliever Jordan Weems in the home half of the eighth to put the Marlins up 2-1 before the Nats’ rally in the top of the ninth.
“We scratched and clawed to get a couple of runs,” manager Davey Martinez said after their second straight win over the Marlins (who’d won the first six between the teams this season before this weekend). “They came back, Soler hit a big home run. And as I always say, our guys don’t quit. They’re going to play hard for 27 outs. We get a couple of guys on base. Jake Alu with a big single right there. A good heads-up play by [Chavis], who just pinch-ran. So, Finnegan comes in and closes out the game. But well done. I loved the way we played today.”
may we interest you in some COMEBACK CURLY W content pic.twitter.com/D0x8AtF2Qg— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 26, 2023
Martinez also loved watching the matchup between Pérez and Irvin.
“I thought it was awesome,” he said. “I was truly impressed about the way both of those young kids pitched. Pérez is going be a good one. He already is, but he’s going to be real good and someone to contend with in the future. But I’m proud of our guys. I’m proud of Jake staying in there, finishing the game strong and giving us a chance to win.”
Irvin’s given up one run in 12 IP combined in his last two starts, and three runs total in his last 18 2⁄3 IP.
“He had a good fastball, good changeup, curveball was good, but the biggest thing — he was pumping strikes,” Martinez said of the starter’s outing, in which he got just five swing and misses, but 16 called strikes, six on his sinker, and five each on his four-seam and his curveball.
“[He] threw strikes when he needed to, he fell behind a little bit early, but he came back and pumped strikes, but he was really good. His fastball was really, really good today.”
It was a tightly-contested matchup in Miami, but even after they ran into an out at home in the ninth, Washington’s scrappy ballclub kept fighting and came away with a win.
Martinez was okay with Thomas’s attempt to score from third early in the ninth, even though he got a late jump and was thrown out.
“Arraez made a great play,” he explained. “One, I didn’t think he was going to get to the ball. Two, to come up firing like that and make an unbelievable throw. I mean, if he throws it high, we’re safe. He made an unbelievable throw right on target. Great play. And like I said, we battled, Jake [Alu] battled, got to 3-2, battled, and hit the ball hard to center field, and things happen. So, it was a well-played game, I’m glad we came out on top, now we got to go 1-0 again tomorrow.”
The at-bat by Alu and his approach at the plate stood out for the sixth-year skipper.
“Once again, a big base hit stays up the middle of the field,” he said. “Doesn’t try to do too much, just tries to put the ball in play. It was awesome. It was a big hit for us. I’m happy for him, I’m happy for these guys, because they’re working really hard.”
Alu’s big hit came after his manager talked in his pregame press conference about wanting to keep his bat in the lineup after seeing positive signs from the 26-year-old rookie recently.
“He’s been starting to swing the bat a lot better,” Martinez said hours before the go-ahead hit by Alu.
“He’s been working on some things with [Hitting Coach] Darnell [Coles]. Staying on top of the ball, not chasing, so I wanted to get his bat in the lineup.”
Good decision, skip.