Ohlendorf, Nationals four-hit Marlins
Righty goes first five-plus innings; four relievers preserve early lead
WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf gave the Nationals five quality innings and helped them edge the Marlins, 2-1, at Nationals Park on Tuesday night.
The Nationals have won six out of their last seven games and improved their record to 66-65, seven games behind the Reds for the second and final National League Wild Card spot. Cincinnati lost to St. Louis, 6-1, at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night.
"We feel like we are playing good baseball," said Tyler Clippard, one of four Nationals relievers to finish off the four-hitter of the Marlins. "We are taking every day as it comes. That's all we can do. We feel very confident in how we are playing and we'll take it from there. Who knows what is going to happen? We are playing well."
Ohlendorf retired the first nine hitters he faced before allowing a leadoff single to Christian Yelich in the fourth inning. Ohlendorf would allow two more hits before he left the game, one of which was a home run by Yelich in the sixth inning.
"He was great," manager Davey Johnson said. "He made pitches. He threw some great breaking balls. Some of the location, [on some of the breaking balls], I wasn't keen on. He kept us right in there. We didn't score a whole lot."
The Marlins' biggest chance to score came in the fourth inning. They had the bases loaded with one out, but Ed Lucas struck out and Justin Ruggiano grounded out to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to end the threat.
"Tonight we just weren't able to get the big hit," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We needed a big hit in there and they pretty much openly walked, pitched around [Giancarlo] Stanton and LoMo [Logan Morrison] there, and the guys behind him got to make him pay. And really that's the difference."
But then, according to Johnson, Ohlendorf ran out of gas and was taken out of the game after the Yelich homer. It didn't help that Ohlendorf's pitches were clocked in the low 80s, more than 10 mph lower than his pitches in the previous inning.
"I was kind of ready for it. He just kind of ran out of gas like he did before," Johnson said. "But you never know with him, because sometimes he puts a lot on it, and other times, it's more like he is changing up off his fastball. When he takes 10 miles off it, it scares me a little bit."
Johnson said he is thinking about putting Ohlendorf back in the bullpen and replacing him with right-hander Tanner Roark, who has been outstanding in relief.
"I'll make that decision probably tomorrow," Johnson said.
Ohlendorf said he didn't run out of gas and felt he could pitch more than five-plus innings.
"I wished I had pitched deeper. The bullpen did a great job picking me up," Ohlendorf said. "I don't know that I [ran out of gas]. I was still making pitches. The home run was a location thing. I probably [would have been able to get] guys in the end."
Before he was promoted, Roark was a starter for Triple-A Syracuse, and he said he is ready for the challenge.
"It's a different mindset," Roark said. "Every fifth day you are pitching. I feel fine with that, I'm OK with it."
Roark got off to a slow start after he replaced Ohlendorf. After getting Donovan Solano to fly out to Jayson Werth, Roark walked Stanton and Morrison before striking out Lucas and Ruggiano to end the threat.
The Nationals were able to win the game thanks to a two-run first inning off right-hander Nathan Evoaldi. Zimmerman scored the first run on a groundout by Werth. Ian Desmond followed and singled to center field, scoring Bryce Harper.
"That's the biggest thing -- the balls are falling in and we are pushing enough runs across," Desmond said. "Other than that, we've seen the same effort level, same heart and all the other stuff. It's all still there."
In the last three innings of the game, Johnson didn't have any problems with his late-inning relievers. Drew Storen, Clippard and Rafael Soriano blanked the Marlins the rest of the way, with Soriano picking up his 34th save of the season.
Clippard was arguably the best of the three. He dominated the Marlins in the eighth inning, striking out two batters. He fanned Stanton on three pitches -- all fastballs clocked as high as 93 mph.
"I just wanted to go after him, because he was going to be aggressive after I got ahead of him, and that's what I did," Clippard said. "He chased a couple fastballs and I got him."
Clippard has clearly been the Nationals' best reliever. Johnson hasn't ruled out having him close games before the season comes to end, but, on this day, the manager stuck with Soriano for the ninth inning.
"He has been doing it all year," Johnson said about Clippard. "He has been doing it ever since I've been here."