WASHINGTON -- With the Dodgers having lost to the Giants on Saturday, the Nationals didn't have to win to clinch home-field advantage in the National League Division Series. But behind Tanner Roark and Trea Turner, Washington earned a 2-1 victory over the Marlins at Nationals Park."It's definitely huge," Roark said.
WASHINGTON -- With the Dodgers having lost to the Giants on Saturday, the Nationals didn't have to win to clinch home-field advantage in the National League Division Series. But behind Tanner Roark and Trea Turner, Washington earned a 2-1 victory over the Marlins at Nationals Park.
"It's definitely huge," Roark said. "These guys fight day in and day out, and we wanted to get home-field advantage, and we got it."
The Nationals seized the lead quickly on Bryce Harper's RBI single in the first inning, then added a run when Turner homered in the fifth. Miami threatened throughout the early innings but couldn't break through against Roark. The Marlins pushed across a run in the sixth before Washington's bullpen shut it down over the final three frames, with Mark Melancon securing a four-out save.
Melancon hasn't typically entered in the eighth inning -- with the Nationals or with his former team, the Pirates -- but manager Dusty Baker used the outing to prep his closer for the postseason.
"I keep the same mindset," Melancon said. "You're sitting out a half-inning, so your body's got to get used to that and get warmed back up. There's a little difference, but nothing that I can't handle."
Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen was solid over five innings, striking out five but allowing six hits, including two to Turner. Chris Johnson drove in Miami's lone run with a single in the sixth inning.
"I thought Wei-Yin threw the ball good today. Had velocity today, I thought that was good," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "We weren't able to do a whole lot to score runs. We had some chances early."
With the loss, the Marlins (79-81) clinched their seventh straight sub-.500 season. The Marlins will play 161 games this season, because their Sept. 25 contest against the Braves was cancelled due to the death of All-Star pitcher José Fernández.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Roark finishes strong: The right-hander has been an unsung hero all season as he earned his career-high 16th victory. Roark allowed only three hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings. He struggled slightly with his command, walking four, but pitched out of jams in the first three innings. After a rough 2015 season in which he bounced between the rotation and the 'pen, Roark posted a 2.83 ERA, which ranks sixth in the NL this season.
"It feels good that I'm still able go out there and compete," Roark said. "[Last year] taught me that I don't have to throw the ball by everybody. Just go back to your roots and locate the ball, and make them feel uncomfortable at the plate."
Running out of chances: Limited to just four hits, the Marlins didn't have many scoring chances. The few times they did, they weren't able to capitalize. Down a run in the eighth inning, Miguel Rojas drew a leadoff walk, and speedster Yefri Pérez pinch-ran. Perez was four of five in stolen base chances, and with Christian Yelich at the plate, he attempted to get into scoring position. But Perez was thrown out by catcher Pedro Severino. Yelich reached on an infield single, but Miami was unable to score.
"We had a couple of chances with guys out there, but we weren't able to come up with the hit," Mattingly said.
Tremendous Trea: Turner has been the Nationals' best player since being called up in July, and he continued his incredible rookie campaign. In the first inning, he lined a single to center, then scored on Harper's single. In the fifth, Turner smashed a curveball from Chen over the left-center-field wall for his 13th homer. For good measure, he added a walk and a stolen base, his 32nd, in the eighth. His output on the basepaths hasn't been a surprise, but his power has been, according to Baker.
"Well that tells me that he has tremendous bat speed," Baker said. "And he's a combination of speed and power, which is rare these days. You don't know if he's going to top one, bunt one, get a walk, steal."
Chen finishes with five: Chen was the Opening Day starter, and on Saturday, the left-hander got the nod on the Marlins' second-to-last game. Making his second start since coming off the disabled list with a left elbow sprain, Chen walked only one, but it was a two-out homer he allowed to Turner that proved costly. Chen threw 80 pitches. More >
"There were some situations. In the first inning, I allowed a run. In the fifth inning, I allowed a home run, but overall I felt pretty good," Chen said through his interpreter.
"Every year, if the game that is not doing anything. We let a player manage. Basically, somebody will be a pitching coach, somebody will be a hitting coach. It's more of a fun thing than anything else. We'll have to talk to the other team, and let the umpires know. But it's nothing that you're going to do anything to disrespect the game or anything else. It's a matter of letting the guys have some fun." -- Mattingly, on having players be ceremonial coaches and Martin Prado co-manage Sunday's season finale
Michael Taylor was initially ruled out at second on a steal attempt with two out in the fifth inning, but the Nationals challenged and the call was overturned.
In the sixth, Yelich stole second base on a close play, prompting another Nationals challenge. This time, the call was ruled to stand. Yelich scored one batter later on Johnson's single.
Marlins:Tom Koehler (9-13, 4.15 ERA) closes out the season for the Marlins at 3:05 p.m. ET on Sunday. The right-hander seeks his first win since Aug. 9, while the Marlins bid for their first victory on closing day since Henderson Alvarez no-hit the Tigers at Marlins Park in 2013.
Nationals: NL strikeout leader Max Scherzer will attempt to earn his 20th win and bolster his Cy Young Award credentials on Sunday at Nationals Park. The righty has struggled with the Marlins this season; his 4.58 ERA is his third worst vs. any team, behind only the Cubs and Rockies.
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Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington and covered the Nationals on Saturday.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.