Marlins end drought, but can't rain on Nats' parade
Ruggiano homers for first run; Miami otherwise stifled behind LeBlanc
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At last, the Marlins scored a run, but they are still in search of their first win.
Justin Ruggiano's second-inning homer snapped the longest drought in franchise history without a run to open a season. But it wasn't nearly enough in the Nationals' 6-1 victory on Thursday in front of 25,123 at Nationals Park.
The Marlins were swept in the three games, scoring just the one run. They entered Thursday with seven total hits, and while they did rack up eight off Jordan Zimmermann, they lacked the timely knock. Miami is off to an 0-3 start for the first time since the club dropped its first four to begin the 2001 season.
The lack of offense was certainly magnified because the Marlins were in all three games. But the struggles reached deeper. The team's inexperience and a lack of execution in several areas were telling.
Washington scored an unearned run in an inning the Marlins committed two errors. There were missed cutoff throws, bobbled balls in the infield, inabilities to drop down sacrifice bunts. Collectively, the little things added up.
"That's what happens with young teams; you almost have to play perfect out there," manager Mike Redmond said. "If we give them extra outs or extra opportunities, they're going to take advantage of it. They were able to do that today."
Washington broke the game open with Jayson Werth's three-run homer off Mike Dunn in the seventh inning.
"Right now, they're getting the breaks and we're not," Redmond said. "We're going to have to be better, execute and just stay with it. Obviously, not the start we're looking for, but we'll turn the page and get them tomorrow night."
A revamped Miami roster entered the series against the defending National League East champions, who made a statement and showed they are picking up where they left off a year ago.
On the plus side, the Marlins' pitching was promising.
"There were no blowouts here," first baseman Greg Dobbs said. "They're a very good team. I think the positives are, we held our own. We pitched well. ... I think we just need to relax a little bit and get into our comfort zone."
Dobbs added it was a good test to face one of the top teams right away.
"It's a very good gauge of where you might be personally, as far as how ready you are," Dobbs said. "That's a very good test for us."
Wade LeBlanc suffered the loss, giving up three runs (two earned) in five innings with five strikeouts.
After Miami was shut out in the first two games, Ruggiano connected on a first-pitch Zimmermann offering and belted an opposite-field home run, snapping a string of 19 consecutive scoreless innings. The Marlins' previous long dry spell to start off a season was 13 innings in 1996.
"It will come," Ruggiano said of an offensive turnaround. "Cold days. Cold nights tend to result in a little bit less of an offensive production. I think we will be fine.
"We've got a young team. We might be a little bit amped up. We'll settle down. I think the good news is our pitchers are doing a pretty good job right now."
Washington grabbed the lead in the first inning on Ryan Zimmerman's two-run double.
A pair of errors coupled with Bryce Harper's RBI single gave the Nationals a 3-1 lead in the third inning. Denard Span opened the inning by reaching on a bunt single. An error by LeBlanc, who attempted to swipe the ball to first base, allowed Span to reach second.
"It's a weird thing," LeBlanc said. "No matter how many baseball games you play, that first one of the season is always like the first game you've ever played. I don't know how to explain it. I guess when it stops being that way, you should stop playing."
Harper's second single of the game scored Span. Giancarlo Stanton's throw home was a bit off line, and the error allowed Harper to advance to second.
Harper had an impressive series, belting two homers and driving in three runs as he extended his hitting streak to 12 games dating back to last year.
"Every game's a big game, and we've had trouble with the Marlins no matter what -- not just last year, but through the years," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "No matter what they've put out there, we've had trouble with them. So it was good to spank them this series."