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Nats' vets have gas in tank, fuel 6-run 10th

Dozier, Suzuki, Zimmerman come up big when team needs lift in extras
@cdenicola13
September 22, 2019

MIAMI -- When the Nationals saw a late four-run lead disappear to spoil another strong start by Stephen Strasburg, the ballclub showed its season-long resiliency -- this time led by veterans who haven’t gotten much playing time of late. Brian Dozier, Kurt Suzuki and Ryan Zimmerman fueled a six-run 10th

MIAMI -- When the Nationals saw a late four-run lead disappear to spoil another strong start by Stephen Strasburg, the ballclub showed its season-long resiliency -- this time led by veterans who haven’t gotten much playing time of late.

Brian Dozier, Kurt Suzuki and Ryan Zimmerman fueled a six-run 10th inning as the Nationals beat the Marlins, 10-4, on Saturday night at Marlins Park. Washington remained one game ahead of Milwaukee for the first National League Wild Card spot. With the Cubs' loss, the Nats are four games up on Chicago with nine left to play; the Cubs have seven games remaining.

While Major League Baseball embraces a youth movement, the trio of Dozier, Suzuki and Zimmerman has combined for 36 seasons, 4,291 games and eight postseason appearances.

Box score

“Just professionals,” said Zimmerman, who went 3-for-6 and scored two runs in his first start since Monday. “I've said it all along. Obviously, it's easy to point out these situations, but veteran guys are pretty valuable. They’ve been devalued tremendously in this game, but guys like that know how to perform in certain situations. They've been there before, and they can be really valuable to teams.”

The Nats pinch-ran for another veteran in Asdrúbal Cabrera -- who hurt his right ankle on a play at the plate earlier in the game -- following his single in the eighth. It set up a double switch later in the inning with Dozier, who pinch-hit for Strasburg and grounded into a double play.

Dozier redeemed himself by coming up big in the 10th, knocking the go-ahead RBI single with two strikes off José Ureña to score Zimmerman, who had led off the frame with a hit. Dozier has played sparingly, as the Nats have gone with Cabrera’s hot bat. Dozier last appeared in a game on Sunday, and he was 11-for-59 (.186) since Aug. 5.

Suzuki, who had been sidelined since Sept. 7 with right elbow inflammation, also came through in the clutch with a bases-clearing pinch-hit double to cap the scoring.

“It's not about one guy, it's about all of us,” said Strasburg, who pitched seven scoreless innings. “The highlight for me was Dozier getting out there, Coach Dozier, coming up with a big hit. ‘Zuk’ obviously coming in and picking up right where he left off. Wander [Suero] closing the door. It was fun to watch.”

Strasburg, who reached 200 frames for the first time since 2014 and extended his consecutive scoreless-innings streak against Miami to 24 1/3 when he escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, was in line for what would have been his NL-leading 18th win.

But the effort was for naught as an ugly trend resurfaced with little margin for error in the postseason chase: Fernando Rodney, the 17-year veteran signed by the Nats to a Minor League contract in early June, quickly unraveled and coughed up a four-run lead in the eighth.

Hunter Strickland kept Miami from taking the lead, while Suero and Tanner Rainey pitched a scoreless ninth and 10th inning, respectively, with Daniel Hudson not available. Had it been a save situation, Washington would’ve turned to Sean Doolittle.

“We had guys up [in the bullpen], and you know what, I know Fernando typically can get out of a jam,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s going to throw strikes. He was the guy for me right there.”

Entering Saturday, according to FanGraphs, Washington’s rotation paced the Majors in WAR (20.2), ranked second in ERA (3.56) and fifth in WHIP (1.20). The bullpen, however, was 23rd in WAR (0.6), had the second-highest ERA (5.81) and third-highest WHIP (1.52).

“It's just about picking each other up,” Suzuki said. “It's a team game. They pick us up a lot. We pick them up a lot. It makes for good chemistry, picking each other up and just playing baseball.”

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.