WASHINGTON -- In the aftermath of their players-only meeting the previous day, the Nationals were hoping Thursday could represent something of a turning point to save this season from spiraling down even further. Perhaps, they could not have asked for a better way to do so than storming back from
WASHINGTON -- In the aftermath of their players-only meeting the previous day, the Nationals were hoping Thursday could represent something of a turning point to save this season from spiraling down even further. Perhaps, they could not have asked for a better way to do so than storming back from a nine-run deficit to pull off an improbable, and historic, 14-12 victory against the Marlins.
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
The largest comeback in Nationals history was made possible thanks to Trea Turner's career-high eight RBIs, matching the MLB record for most RBIs by a leadoff hitter. Turner hit his first career grand slam in the sixth inning to put the Nationals ahead for the first time in the game, sending the Nats' dugout into a frenzy and inspiring a curtain call from the 24,314 fans at Nationals Park.
Turner stood on the dugout steps and pumped his fists during the curtain call for a moment the Nationals so desperately needed.
• Did you know: Nats' surreal comeback
"I keep talking about the momentum," Turner said. "I think that game was a huge momentum swing for us. If we can continue to ride that and play good baseball like we did -- after maybe the first four innings or so -- then I think we can beat anybody."
Before beating the Marlins for the 12th consecutive time, the Nats had dropped a season-high five straight games, and their struggles in the past month left them a game under .500 at the start of the day and fading from contention. They held a players-only meeting Wednesday to reiterate that things needed to change. Then, the Marlins ambushed right-hander Jeremy Hellickson for nine runs (eight earned) in four innings.
Hellickson, who had been battling an illness all week, was not right from the start. After he gave up a run in the first inning, the Marlins punished him for six runs in the second inning, punctuated by a three-run homer from Martin Prado.
Despite that rocky start, Nats manager Dave Martinez allowed Hellickson to continue, and the righty even hit for himself in the third inning. In the fourth inning, Justin Bour added a two-run homer to put Miami ahead 9-0.
The Nationals responded to that adversity and began their comeback with Turner's solo home run in the fourth inning, which got the dugout engaged once again.
"That's definitely how it felt in there," first baseman Matt Adams said. "I think it starts with our leaders cheering, rooting everybody on. I think that's just contagious. The leadership and veterans we have on this team, they've been in these situations before. To see them calm and collected, we wanted to back them."
And back them they did. Juan Soto's two-run double highlighted a four-run fifth inning, and Turner's two-run single marked what proved to be a key four-run seventh, with Kelvin Herrera serving up a three-run homer to Brian Anderson in the eighth. Adams went 4-for-5 in his first start back from a fractured left index finger and helped ignite the offense.
Time will tell whether this game actually represents a turning point for the Nationals. But the way they responded on Thursday night gives them hope that despite all that has gone wrong this season, these Nats do not plan on going away quietly.
"It was just -- you could feel the energy from the people there and the dugout," right-hander Shawn Kelley said. "That was a special inning. Hopefully, that's something we look back on in a month or two from now, or four, five months from now, and be like, 'Man, that changed the course of the season.'"
• The nine-run deficit overcome by the Nationals was the largest in team history (2005-present), surpassing the previous record of eight runs, done on April 28, 2015 against the Braves in Atlanta. It also matched the biggest comeback in franchise history, mirroring the Expos' nine-run comeback on May 16, 1997, against the Giants.
• Hellickson became the third Nationals starter to allow at least nine runs this season, joining Tanner Roark from Tuesday and A.J. Cole on April 3. From 2014-17, Nationals starting pitchers had allowed nine runs in just three outings total.
• Turner's eight RBIs tied Josh Willingham for the second most in a game in Nats history behind Anthony Rendon's 10-RBI performance from last season.
HE SAID IT
"I kind of play it all through my head, because I tell myself [to prepare for] what situation I'm going to be in. So, I think it's something that I play through my head, but to actually do it is pretty good, pretty special." -- Turner, on his grand slam
"I was trying to jump to the moon, but I didn't get really high up." -- Adams, after Turner's grand slam
"Good comeback. Very good comeback. The boys didn't give up. Took a little ownership. That was good. Like I said, they've been playing well. Just not getting the big hits, and tonight, it was nice to see those guys come through." -- Martinez, on the Nats comeback
Giovany Gonzalez will take the mound Friday night against the Marlins to try and continue the good feelings from Thursday's come-from-behind win. Gonzalez is also tasked with turning around his own season, in which he has posted a 9.31 ERA in his last five starts, and watched his ERA skyrocket from 2.27 to 3.77 during that span. Right-hander Dan Straily will take the mound for the Marlins. First pitch is set for 7:05 ET at Nationals Park.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.