Postgame analysis of the Nats' 3-1 win over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night at Marlins Park:
How it happened: Sometimes contributions can come from the most unexpected places in a baseball lineup, and sometime they come from the places you most expect. For the Nationals on Wednesday it was the latter, with Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman leading the way with RBI doubles as the Nationals struck early against Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen and didn't look back. Their own starter, Joe Ross, left with an injury, but their bullpen - keyed by Yusmeiro Petit - held down the fort. Michael Taylor added his second homer of the season in the fourth inning, as the Nationals secured their 11th win with a 3-1 victory.
What it means: The Nationals now have a chance to win their third straight series, something that did not look likely until the seventh inning of Tuesday night's game. At 11-3, the Nats sit a half-game ahead of the Chicago Cubs for the best record in baseball. They will look to take three of four against Miami on Thursday before returning to Washington for a home stand beginning with the Minnesota Twins on Friday.
Harper, Zim a nice combo: Zimmerman's double came in the first inning and it was a rocket to left-center field off Chen. It scored Anthony Rendon all the way from first to put the Nats up 1-0, and it gave Zimmerman his fifth straight game with a hit. It was just his fourth RBI this season, which seems like a low number given his history and where he is hitting in the lineup. He does, though, have RBI in consecutive games with his homer on Tuesday. Harper's double gave him his 21st RBI of the season, which is an insane number through 14 games. That has him in the MLB lead by a longshot.
Petit picks them up: Petit was signed this winter for this exact reason. With Ross having left the game after just two innings with a blister on his right hand, Petit had no trouble stepping right in as the long reliever. He went four innings with just one run allowed to bridge the Nats to the seventh when Oliver Perez took over. Petit gave up that lone run on a solo homer to Derek Dietrich. That was just one of two hits he allowed. Petit struck out three and didn't walk anybody. The veteran right-hander was signed to fill the role Craig Stammen long thrived in, as a guy who can give you one inning or five, depending on the situation. On Wednesday, he certainly showed his value. Speaking of the bullpen, Jonathan Papelbon again made it interesting in the ninth. He gave up a two out single to Christian Yelich, which brought up Giancarlo Stanton to represent the tying run. Stanton, though, struck out looking on a fastball for the final out.
Taylor homers amid slump: One swing alone won't get Taylor out of the woods or fix his batting average, but - like Zimmerman - the Nationals outfielder is starting to make better contact. On Wednesday, he clubbed his second homer of 2016 to center field on the first pitch he saw from Chen in the top of the fifth with two outs. The homer came after two straight games with doubles for Taylor. He's still below the Mendoza Line, but Taylor will take what he can get as he looks to regain his form from spring training.
Daily Daniel Murphy mention: With two singles in the win, Daniel Murphy extended his hit streak to 12 games on Wednesday night and now has at least one hit in 13 of the 14 games he's played this season. It was his eighth multi-hit game this season, which leads the majors. Signed this winter by the Nats, Murphy is batting .429, also best in MLB.
Werth also left the game: In addition to Ross leaving in the middle of Wednesday night's win, Jayson Werth was also replaced in the bottom of the fifth by Chris Heisey in left field. There has been no word on the reason, but it could have been just a simple defensive replacement.
Up next: The Nats play the series finale against Miami with a 1:10 p.m. start set for Thursday afternoon. Max Scherzer (2-0, 3.15) will take the mound for the Nats with right-hander - and Harper favorite - Tom Koehler (0-2, 6.30) pitching for the Marlins.