GAME IN A NUTSHELL: On the heels of an eventful, 10-game road trip that ended on a high note, the Nationals were right back at the park Monday night to open a 6-game homestand, with another surging division rival in town. What transpired was another taut, low-scoring affair that was decided late.
As has been the case too often this season, the eighth inning appeared to be the Nationals' downfall yet again. But then came an impressive counter-punch that flipped the script entirely.
After tying the game in the bottom of the seventh on Jayson Werth's 2-out RBI single, the Nats gave two runs back to the Marlins during a rally that began with a Dee Gordon leadoff walk against Blake Treinen. Treinen did record a pair of strikeouts to put his team on the verge of escaping the jam, but rookie Matt Grace surrendered a 2-out single to pinch-hitter Jeff Baker, with Gordon scoring ahead of Bryce Harper's one-hop throw to the plate, which was dropped by Wilson Ramos.
The Nationals, though, struck right back in the bottom of the inning when Ian Desmond launched a first-pitch fastball from Bryan Morris into the batter's eye in center field, tying this game at 4 and earning a curtain call from the appreciative crowd of 24,731. Then after hits by Tyler Moore and Denard Span, Yunel Escobar delivered his fifth hit of the night, this one a 2-run single that gave the Nats the lead.
Up 2 runs in the ninth, the Nationals had to make an on-the-fly adjustment. With Drew Storen and Aaron Barrett unavailable after pitching three of the last four days, Tanner Roark was summoned for the first save opportunity of his career. And the right-hander came through, striking out Giancarlo Stanton on a 3-2 slider to end it.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: What a revelation Escobar has been for the Nationals. He was touted for his ability to put the bat on the ball, and he has done that to perfection so far this season, never better than he did Monday night. With a 5-for-5 performance at the plate, the veteran infielder delivered five singles, in a variety of styles. He pulled base hits to left field, he went the other way on hit-and-runs. And with the game on the line in the eighth, he again went the other way off Morris, lining his big single to right that put the Nats ahead for the first time in the game.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: After some inconsistent starts over the last month, Jordan Zimmermann was pretty much back to his old self in this game. He had command of all four of his pitches, he worked fast, he got quick outs and he didn't walk a batter over seven strong innings. The first run Zimmermann allowed wasn't his fault — Werth's error set the stage for it to score — but he did make a mistake on his seventh-inning fastball to Justin Bour, resulting in the go-ahead homer. Still, Zimmermann pitched plenty well enough to earn a win. Unfortunately, Matt Williams had no choice but to pull him for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh, despite a pitch count of only 81.
KEY STAT: During his 20-game streak reaching base, Bryce Harper owns a .460 on-base percentage.
UP NEXT: Tuesday night's game features Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 4.60) trying to bounce back after a rough start in Miami last weekend, with Mat Latos (0-3, 6.86) trying to duplicate his strong outing against the Nats in that previous series. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.