The stadium gasped. Reliever Drew Storen, already with men on first and second with none out in the seventh inning of a tie game, was on the ropes.
Then Storen threw Stanton a slider. Swing and a miss. Strike three. Momentum shifted. Two popouts later, the inning was over with no damage done, and the Washington Nationals scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning to take a 4-3 win over the Miami Marlins.
"He hit that ball off the Capitol," Storen said. "So it's one of those things that he was obviously looking for a heater there, so you just kind of go up and throw a good pitch to him, and it worked out all right."
The Nationals need such resolve from Storen—and the rest of the roster for that matter—if they're to become relevant again in the playoff race. They've won seven of eight as they hit a soft portion of the schedule, but they remain seven games behind Cincinnati, which beat St. Louis 10-0, for the NL's second wild-card berth.
Storen (4-2) has been mostly solid since his early season struggles that sent him back to the minors. He picked up the win as the fourth of six Nationals pitchers on a night when starter Stephen Strasburg was done after two innings because of a 72-minute rain delay.
Tyler Clippard worked the eighth, and Rafael Soriano the ninth for his 35th save.
Strasburg had promising stuff—he got his six outs on 22 pitches with no hits allowed—but the silver lining is that the brief outing might allow him to pitch Sunday on short rest.
Ian Desmond had three hits, including the go-ahead RBI single in the seventh inning, for the Nationals. He also scored a run and stole a base and has six hits in the first two games of the series.
"Things are on my side right now," Desmond said. "I haven't hit too many balls on the barrel, but I'm fortunate enough to get hits. I'm in a good spot mentally right now, and a majority of the game is just mental."
The Nationals broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh off Mike Dunn (3-4). Denard Span walked to lead off the inning, then advanced to second when Dunn bounced a pickoff attempt for a throwing error. Werth was intentionally walked with two outs, and Desmond scored Span with a single to left.
The Marlins have lost seven of eight, a skid that manager Mike Redmond tried to halt by switching around his lineup. He batted rookie Christian Yelich third for the first time, moving Stanton and Logan Morrison down one notch each to fourth and fifth. It was the first time Stanton had batted cleanup this season.
Stanton hit a solo homer in the sixth—the inning before his big at-bat against Storen—Yelich drew a pair of walks, and Morrision had a single, but the Marlins couldn't string together their hits. They went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position, leaving Redmond uncertain as to whether to stick with the lineup for another day.
"I liked the fact that it looked like we kind of swung the bats a little better as far as the hits," Redmond said. "I don't know. I'll have to sleep on it. We'll see what I can come up with tomorrow."
It was a dog days game for both teams—at least it felt that way when counting up all the little mistakes.
Washington's Anthony Rendon made a baserunning gaffe on a ground ball and was thrown out at third, and Bryce Harper bobbled a base hit for an error that allowed the batter to get to second. Miami's Morrison got caught in a rundown between third and home, Dunn had his throwing error, and the Marlins couldn't do anything after getting two on with none out against Storen.
"You get in those situations. It usually comes down to a great defensive play or a big hit," Redmond said. "And we've been on the other end of both most of the year."
Notes: How inept are the Marlins at the plate? They've drawn 31 walks in their last nine games—and none of those 31 runners have scored. ... Washington is 5-0 vs. Miami at home this season. ... Harper had an RBI double in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, his first double-digit hitting streak in the majors. Span pushed his hitting streak to 11 games.
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