WASHINGTON— The gloomy overcast wasn’t the only thing keeping the noticeably silent home crowd down for the first seven innings. But, by the time the Washington Nationals (29-21) began to put its first rally of the day together in the bottom of the eighth, the crowd roared to life.
In that moment, Nationals manager Davey Martinez knew he had a decision to make. Trailing 2-0 to the Miami Marlins (24-28), the Nationals had runners on first and second base after back-to-back singles from first baseman Eric Thames and catcher Yan Gomes.
Third baseman Carter Kieboom strolled to the plate with an out and a chance to extend Washington’s rally. Kieboom, though, has been far from a sure thing all season. Entering Saturday afternoon’s game, the rookie third baseman was only hitting .165 and had already flown out and grounded out earlier in his first two at-bats.
“I thought about pulling him back and sending [Ryan] Zimmerman to the plate,” Martinez said post game. “Thankfully, I didn’t.”
Kieboom, to the surprise of many, lifted a 2-2 curveball off of Marlins starter Jordan Yamamoto down the left field line for a base hit which loaded the bases for the pinch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera. The crowd seemingly let out a sigh of relief, thanking the baseball gods, for allowing the struggling young third baseman to extend the team’s rally.
“I was looking for a fastball but he [Yamamoto] made a mistake by hanging a curve,” Kieboom said. “I was just trying to do my job and keep the line moving.”
To that point, Yamamoto was nearly perfect. Through his first seven innings of work, the 24-year-old allowed only two hits and fanned seven on 74 pitches. He was in command early, working through quick counts, throwing an average of 11.8 pitches-per-inning, and didn’t issue a single walk to the free-swinging Nationals lineup.
As dominant as Yamamoto was through seven-and-a-third, including five innings where he set the side down in order, he struggled to finish off his impressive performance. After giving up three straight singles, Miami manager Don Mattingly pulled Yamamoto in favor of the hard-throwing Yimi Garcia.
“I thought it was the right move,” Mattingly said. “Yimi’s numbers were favorable in those matchups. But numbers don’t always win ball games.”
Garcia, a Dominican Republic native, recorded the final two outs of the eighth inning, but not before he surrendered the lead, giving up all three runs that were charged to Yamamoto who recorded the loss. With the bases loaded, Garcia walked in Cabrera and gave up a sacrifice fly to Victor Robles which tied the game at two apiece. With runners on the corners and two outs, Garcia surrendered the eventual go-ahead single to Adam Eaton which capped off an eighth inning rally to give Washington a 3-2 lead heading into the ninth.
“I wasn’t trying to play hero,” Eaton said of his game-winning hit. “I wanted to keep the line moving and at the very least, reach base safely.”
While Washington’s offense was stagnant all day, Miami’s offense put on a hitting clinic against starting pitcher Austin Voth. The 27-year-old scattered eight hits across his brief four innings of work but controlled the damage, only allowing two runs before reliever Joe Ross was called upon to pitch the fifth and sixth. It wasn’t all bad for Voth as he struck out six without issuing a walk on 73 pitches with 69.9% of his pitches called as strikes.
Aside from a hit in both the fifth and six innings, the Marlins offense silenced itself for the final three innings, failing to record a hit off of relievers Daniel Hudson, Ryne Harper and Sean Doolittle who recorded the save. Both Hudson and Harper each had a small hiccup by issuing a walk in their respective innings of work. But both right-handers were able to work around the traffic without either runner scoring.
“The back end of the bullpen did their job today,” Martinez said. “I’m proud of the way they were able to limit the damage. It’s not always easy to rely on the bullpen for five innings.”
Riding high on a modest four game winning streak, the Nationals have the chance to extend it tomorrow afternoon and sweep the third-place Marlins as Max Scherzer is scheduled to take the bump.
“We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s game,” Martinez said. “We’re sticking true to our motto and going 1-0 everyday.”
*Disclaimer: This series is a simulated version of the 2020 Washington Nationals season on MLB The Show. This is for fun and not to be taken seriously. Player and manager quotes are fake and made up to add realism.
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