Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
It was going to take an almost perfect game for the Marlins to take down the Nationals on Tuesday night. Unfortunately they were not very close to playing at that level. The early season optimism surrounding the offense of the fish has begun to wain as the Marlins again struggled to score runs for the second consecutive game, losing 5-0.
Gio Gonzalez was masterful as he threw six scoreless innings en route to the Washington shutout. The Marlins were only able to muster 4 hits on the evening, while stranding 14 runners on base. Repeatedly the Marlins were able to secure chances at driving in runs but the clutch hitting that had become a calling card for the Marlins during the spring and early season abandoned them.
One of the Marlins best chances came in the second inning when Garrett Jones laid down a bunt to counteract the shift that was in place (why Jones and Salty don’t do that more often is beyond me), which was followed up by a Marcell Ozuna walk (I was as surprised as you are). Unfortunately Reed Johnson‘s rough night was underway as he smoked a line drive right at the center fielder for out number two and the Henderson Alvarez was unable to help himself and flied out for the final out. Johnson ended up leaving 4 runners on base for the night, a Marlins high.
If Reed Johnson had a rough night, Jeff Baker probably wishes he had just not even shown up. Baker went 0-3 with a walk and saw his average drop to .176 on the young season. To make matters worse, he had a costly error in the 6th inning of a 1-0 ball game that opened the door for the Nationals and seemed to sap what little energy the Marlins had left at that point.
With runners on the corners and two outs, Alvarez through a pitch in the dirt that squirted away from Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Adam Laroche took off for second base and Bryce Harper broke briefly for home before slamming on the brakes. Salty made a fantastic split-second decision and an even better throw to second base that had Laroche dead-to-rights sliding into the bag…until Baker inexplicably dropped the ball. It appeared that he had snow-coned it and Laroche’s out-stretched hand knocked the precariously secured ball loose. Miami’s failure to get that last out would prove costly as Harper scored on the play, and a rattled Alvarez allowed a subsequent walk and single to score another run.
A 3-run lead may not seem like much to overcome, but there was a feeling that it was insurmountable on this night. The National’s bullpen would prove that feeling correct as they threw 3 innings of 1-hit ball.
Despite the difficult night, it was not all bad news for the Fish. Henderson Alvarez pitched much better than he did his first outing, allowing only one earned run and striking out 4. Alvarez seemed to have better command, although still needs to work on keeping his pitches down. The Marlins will look for their revenge tonight as they take on the Nationals in game two of the series.