WASHINGTON -- There’s something about pitching against the Nationals that suits José Ureña.
The Marlins starter put together one of his best outings of the season Monday in a 3-2 triumph at Nationals Park that helped Miami avoid a four-game sweep in Washington and allowed it to close its seven-game road trip with a 4-3 record.
Ureña’s fourth straight quality start was an economical one, as he needed just 80 pitches to get through seven frames and beat Washington for the fourth straight time dating back to July 29 of last season. He now has a career mark of 5-2 with a 3.36 ERA in 13 career appearances against the Nationals.
“It’s a random thing. It happens,” Ureña said. “They are a pretty good team. That is the game sometimes. With those hitters, you have to be aggressive because they are aggressive too.”
With the Marlins’ bullpen needing a rest, Ureña slid nicely into the role of stopper. Ureña (3-6) allowed just four hits while striking out four and walking one, and this marked the eighth straight start he’s gone at least six innings, a career-high. Since laboring through a start in Cincinnati on April 9, the right-hander has turned things around thanks to a minor bit of tinkering.
“After Cincinnati, whenever that was, that was a tough start for him,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We sat down and talked about some different things we feel like he could do better, do differently. We made some small changes, nothing big with him, but he’s taken to it and really since then, he’s pitched really good.”
The right-hander also played a big role at the plate, as his hustle down the first-base line on a seventh-inning sacrifice bunt forced an error on Washington’s Matt Adams that moved the tying run to third. Harold Ramirez’s effort on a grounder to short then helped avoid a double play and allowed the Marlins to tie the score at 2-2.
“I think he was the player of the game, because he kept the offense quiet the whole day and then he put a pretty good bunt down and ran pretty hard down the line,” said shortstop Miguel Rojas, who drove in the winning run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly. “All the credit for Jose and to step it up for the starting rotation.”
Even though the Marlins were just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men stranded, Mattingly was pleased with his team’s offensive approach against Nationals ace Max Scherzer.
“I thought it was good,” Mattingly said. “I’m going to be honest with you: I feel like our approach has been good for a while. We’ve had some good at-bats. We don’t always do a lot, but guys have done a nice job about knowing who they’re facing and having some sort of game plan, almost a team plan, of what we’re trying to do with a guy and then blending that in with what you do.”
Rojas, who was 0-for-2 yet still scored a run and tallied an RBI, said the Marlins’ approach helped them pull out the victory.
“When we stepped up at the plate, you see how our at-bats got better against Scherzer,” he said. “Even when we didn’t put a lot of runs on the board, I thought we did a pretty good job of putting his pitch count up and making him pitch just six innings. We know their weakness is the bullpen and we were trying to get in the bullpen as soon as possible.”