Postgame analysis of the Nats' 5-3 win over the Miami Marlins on Friday night at Nationals Park:
How it happened: Teams may not want to pitch to Bryce Harper these days, but sometimes they have little choice. That was the case on Friday night for the Marlins who watched Harper approach the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning with Anthony Rendon on first and no outs in a tied game. If they walked him, as they had already done twice on the evening, they would have been testing their luck with the go-ahead run on second and the scorching hot Daniel Murphy up to bat.
So, they instead had reliever Kyle Barraclough pitch to Harper and, well, the results were not pretty. Harper launched a two-run homer - his 11th of the season - to right field on a full count slider to set the stage for their 22nd victory of the season.
The Marlins cut the lead to 4-3 in the eighth against Blake Treinen as Giancarlo Stanton doubled and then scored on a groundout by Chris Johnson. But Chris Heisey added another run with his fourth homer in the eighth and Felipe Rivero and Jonathan Papelbon held it down in the ninth to secure a 5-3 victory.
What it means: The Nationals are now 22-13 on the season and winners of three of their last four overall. They are 4-3 against the Marlins this season and have won three of their last four.
Just like they Drew it up: Stephen Drew hit his second homer of the season to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth and it came at a time both managers were doing a lot of tinkering. Dusty Baker brought in Drew to pinch-hit, so Don Mattingly called on Bryan Morris to face him. Drew promptly launched a 2-1 sinker over the right field fence to make it 2-2. It was the fifth pinch-hit homer for the Nats this year. Heisey's blast gave them six on the season. Heisey already has three pinch-hit homers. This was the first time in Nats history they hit two pinch-hit homers in the same game.
Gio's up-and-down day: Gio Gonzalez was charged with zero earned runs on Friday night, and he was much better than his last time out in Chicago, but it wasn't exactly a dominant outing for the Nats' lefty. He was pulled in the sixth inning after he loaded the bases with no outs. He gave up six hits and two walks and threw total 106 pitches. Gonzalez wasn't sharp, but to his credit, the Marlins did not make very good contact off him all night. The hardest hit ball was probably a flyout by Martin Prado that Jayson Werth leaped to catch at the wall in the top of the fourth.
Murphy's costly errors: The Marlins broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth inning with help from two errors at second base by Daniel Murphy. Following a Marcell Ozuna leadoff walk, Murphy allowed Chris Johnson to reach when he booted a routine grounder. Two batters later he made an errant throw to first base on an infield single by Miguel Rojas that brought home two runs. The ball ricocheted off Gonzalez' glove at first base and bounced to the steps of the Nats' dugout. Ryan Zimmerman retrieved it too late as Ozuna and Johnson came home to score, both representing unearned runs. The errors helped cause Gonzalez to throw 39 pitches in the inning.
Lobaton thrown out at home: The Nats had a good chance to score in the bottom of the second after Jose Lobaton drew a two-out walk before Gonzalez roped a double to left-center field. Lobaton was waved in all the way around from first, only to be thrown out at home on a relay by Adeiny Hechavarria. It was the second time this week a Nats catcher has been caught at home after getting sent by third base coach Bob Henley, as Wilson Ramos also got gunned out on Tuesday.
What's next: The Nats have a quick turnaround before a split doubleheader on Saturday. Stephen Strasburg (5-0, 2.76) will start the 1:05 p.m. game while Tanner Roark (2-2, 2.03) will get the 7:05 night cap. Lefty Justin Nicolino (2-0, 2.79) will start the first one for the Marlins with 24-year-old Kendry Flores pitching the second one. He is getting called up from Triple-A New Orleans to make his season debut.