Span breaks out as Nationals win in extra innings
Lineup shuffle pays dividends, as club finishes first half over .500
MIAMI -- The Nationals left Miami and the first half of the 2013 season with a good taste in their mouths. They defeated the Marlins, 5-2, in 10 innings and finished the first half of the 2013 season a game over .500, with a 48-47 record. The Nationals grabbed the finale of the three-game series thanks, in part, to Denard Span's second RBI double of the day.
With a runner on first with two outs and the score tied at 2, Span doubled to right-center field off Miami reliever Steve Cishek to score Ian Desmond. Wilson Ramos followed with a single to left field to score Span to chase Cishek. Dan Jennings entered the game and allowed an RBI double to pinch-hitter Chad Tracy to put the Nats up by three.
"It's always important to get a win before the break," said left fielder Bryce Harper. "We have the Dodgers [to start the second half]. I don't think anyone is looking forward to that. We have four days off, and it would be good for everybody to clear their minds, get ready for that second half. We are excited to get going. We'll try to get to first place."
Manager Davey Johnson said the Nationals have a lot of work to do during the second half. A lot of experts expected the Nats to be the elite team in the National League, but they stumbled for most of the first half. It didn't help that the offense underachieved, either. It finished the first half near the bottom of almost every offensive category.
"We are still in arm's distance of where we want to be. It's going to be good to kind of go home, reset the batteries for the break, come back and get the ball rolling on a positive note for the second half," said reliever Tyler Clippard. "We are all very excited for this break. I'm looking forward to the second half."
Johnson was so upset after Saturday's 2-1 loss to Miami that he decided to make some changes to his lineup. He decided to put Harper and Anthony Rendon at the top of the order and drop Span down to the seventh spot.
Johnson said he is going to stick with this lineup for quite some time. Harper, for one, is not complaining about being a leadoff hitter.
"I was getting in there and getting the ABs that I did. I was able to get five at-bats. That was pretty awesome," said Harper. "I like doing it. I did it in high school, so that was pretty cool. I would be pretty comfortable out there. I got a pretty good pitch to hit in the first AB -- fastball right down the middle. It was a good day. I liked it."
The new arrangement paid dividends for the Nationals, who stayed close throughout the game.
In the second inning with Henderson Alvarez on the mound for the Marlins, Adam LaRoche scored all the way from first on a double by Span to make it a 1-0 game.
After Alvarez was able to get two quick outs in the seventh inning, Harper reached first on a walk. Rendon followed with a double to left, scoring Harper all the way from first base.
"We got a bunch of hits and didn't score many runs. We hit a bunch of balls hard. I liked the way it felt," Johnson said. "Everybody seemed to have a little energy with the new lineup. I'll probably stick with it for a while."
Right-hander Taylor Jordan started for Washington and was outstanding, allowing two runs over six innings. His only blemish came in the fourth inning, when he allowed a two-run homer to Derek Dietrich to make it a 2-1 game in favor of the Marlins.
Ian Krol, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen and Rafael Soriano blanked Miami the rest of the way, with Soriano picking up his 25th save of the season.
"Taylor pitched great," Clippard said. "It looked like, to me, he could have gone two or three more innings. Obviously, it dictated him coming out. But he pitched great -- efficient, went after guys -- it's exactly what you want to see from a starter.
"[The bullpen] got it done. It was a good team win [today]."