It’s always a joy to look at the Marlins schedule and see “Washington Nationals” printed there, filled to the brim with promises of multiple wins and minimal effort. And after enjoying some hard-fought series wins against the likes of the Dodgers, Braves and Cubs, a little stop in DC to sweep the Nationals would be a welcome break.
Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard it all before. There are no easy wins in baseball. You have to bring your A game no matter who you’re playing. Blah blah blah. Well, forgive me for thinking the Marlins C or D game would be plenty to tuck three more wins neatly under the team belt. I mean, it’s the Nationals. I’ve seen these guys play the Fish, and the competition is reminiscent of the match-up that my siblings and I made against our Dad when we played board games with him when we were all under the age of seven. It never failed. No matter how hard we tried, and no matter how much my mom nagged him to go easy on us, we would leave table one by one, weeping bitterly as his pile of Monopoly money rose to the ceiling, and notices of bankruptcy and the deed to Mediterranean Avenue were all that was left on our corners of the board.
It was just an unfair match-up.
And so, thinking along those lines, I may have mentally added a “W” to the Marlins record as the Fish opened up their series with Washington at Nationals Park Tuesday night. (Like you didn’t.)
The Marlins were well on their way to an eleventh straight win against the Nats as Josh Johnson took the mound and characteristically cruised through seven innings, striking out nine and retiring a string of 20 batters. Josh also treated Marlins fans to yet another home run, tying the franchise record for most homers hit by a Marlins pitcher in a season. Add in three hits from Chris Coghlan, RBI singles from Nick Johnson and Jeremy Hermida, and Cody’s 18th longball of the season (third in his last two games), and the Fish held a comfortable 4-0 lead.
Just another night at Nationals Park for Josh Johnson and the Marlins.
And then the eighth inning happened.
Josh gave up three straight singles to load the bases with nobody out before giving up a double to pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard to cut the Marlins lead in half. The bullpen took over from there in an attempt to stop the bleeding and minimize the damage, but the Nats lineup had other ideas. Ideas such as batting around, and scoring SIX times before Marlins relievers could record the third out of the inning. Cristian Guzman singled to tie the score, and Adam Dunn hit a two-run shot to give the Nationals a 6-4 lead.
The Marlins did attempt a comeback of sorts as Cantu doubled in the ninth, Dan Uggla walked, and the tying run came to the plate against Mike MacDougal. Unfortunately, the late-inning heroics ended there. Hermida grounded into a double play to end the game, and the Marlins lost to the Washington flipping Nationals for the first time in 2009.
I’m going to have to suggest you step up at least to your B game for Wednesday’s contest, Fish.