WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper has seen so few pitches to hit during the past few weeks, but when he got a pitch to handle on Friday night at Nationals Park, he did not miss. He launched the go-ahead, two-run homer in the seventh inning off Marlins right-hander Kyle Barraclough to
WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper has seen so few pitches to hit during the past few weeks, but when he got a pitch to handle on Friday night at Nationals Park, he did not miss. He launched the go-ahead, two-run homer in the seventh inning off Marlins right-hander Kyle Barraclough to guide the Nationals to a 5-3 comeback victory.
All of Washington's offense came via the home run, thanks to a pair of pinch-hit blasts from Stephen Drew -- a two-run shot in the sixth -- and Chris Heisey's solo dinger in the eighth.
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"These guys, they work hard and they hit a lot and they have a lot of pride coming off the bench," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "They're proud of what they're doing as a unit. That's so very important that they feel good about themselves, and the guys on the team feel good about them."
The Marlins collected six hits off left-hander Gio Gonzalez, and although most of them were not hit hard, they were often just out of the reach of Nationals defenders. Combine that with some uncharacteristic shaky defense from the Nationals, who entered the game with the fewest errors in the Majors (10), and Miami jumped out to a 2-0 lead after scoring a pair of runs in the fifth aided by two errors by Daniel Murphy.
Miami failed to add to its lead in the sixth, when it had the bases loaded and nobody out. The inning ended with a strikeout and a double play.
"We had a really good chance to add on and get the game away from them a little bit," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "We don't score, and momentum changes in that inning there, when Drew hits the homer."
The win was secured by Jonathan Papelbon, who recorded his 10th save of the season and surpassed Troy Percival for sole possession of 10th place on the all-time list with the 359th of his career.
• Papelbon's milestone
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Getting a pitch to hit: Harper's homer in the seventh was his first since May 4 and only the second in his past 17 games. He has rarely been attacked in the strike zone through the past few weeks, and when he has received pitches to hit, he has not taken advantage. Harper entered the game with a slash line of .182/.479/.250 since April 26, but he had drawn 25 walks.
"Just try to stay within yourself and think every pitch is a strike," Harper said about staying sharp despite seeing so few pitches to hit. "Try to think to yourself that you're swinging every single time. Not get lazy and just try to not be surprised by a pitch down the middle...just trying to stay within myself every time and try to do some damage any time I can."
Bullpen blues: The Marlins' bullpen has had a rough season, with injuries to key pitchers leaving Mattingly short-handed. This showed on Friday, with the bullpen allowing three home runs in 2 1/3 innings . Miami's lack of a left-handed reliever proved particularly costly, as lefties Drew and Harper both went yard off relievers. Harper's at-bat with a man on first in the seventh seemed like a situation in which Mattingly would have inserted a lefty if he had one available, though Mattingly said he would have stuck with the righty Barraclough against Harper regardless. Barraclough said he gave no thought to pitching around the slugger with a runner on first base.
"I'm not going to work around him. I'm going to go right at him and try to get him out," Barraclough said. "It's upsetting that I walked the first guy, but even if I didn't walk him, I'm still going to go right at [Harper]." More >
Pinch-hit power: The Nationals benefited from a pair of pinch-hit homers from Drew and Heisey. Washington has six pinch-hit home runs this season, surpassing its total from all of last season in just its 35th game. Washington ranks second in the Majors in pinch-hit homers (St. Louis -- 7).
"We've got a good bench," Drew said. "It's fun to watch." More >
Making them pay: The Marlins capitalized on several Nationals errors to score two runs in the fifth inning. After a Marcell Ozuna walk, second baseman Murphy booted a double-play ball to put runners on first and second. Two batters later, Murphy overthrew first base on a slow roller in his direction, and when the Nationals were slow to recover the ball, two runners raced home.
"They fielded it really because both Zimmerman and Murphy were going for the ball," Baker said. "So when a ball's hit to the right side, it's the pitcher's responsibility to cover the bag, and Gio was late getting to the bag. That's why the play happened the way it did."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Friday marked the first time in franchise history (since 2005) that the Nationals hit two pinch-hit home runs in one game.
Ben Revere launched himself into the first-base bag to try and beat out a grounder to second in the sixth inning, but he was ruled out. The Nationals challenged the call, which was confirmed.
Marlins: The Marlins will face the Nationals in a doubleheader on Saturday at Nationals Park. Lefty Justin Nicolino, who leads Miami starters with a 2.79 ERA this season, will start the first game at 1:05 p.m. ET, while righty Kendry Flores will go in the second at 7:05 p.m. Flores is the fifth-ranked prospect in Miami's farm system, according to MLBPipeline.com.
Nationals: The Nationals will host the Marlins for a day-night doubleheader on Saturday at Nationals Park. Stephen Strasburg will start the matinee at 1:05 p.m. ET, in his first start after signing a seven-year, $175 million contract extension this week. Right-hander Tanner Roark, who has gone at least six innings in six of his seven outings, starts the second game at 7:05 p.m. ET.
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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.
Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.