WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Nationals are trying to stay in the playoff race. Pitching performances like this one will surely help.
Ross Ohlendorf pitched neatly into the sixth inning, Ian Desmond had three hits and the Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 2-1 on Tuesday night.
“Nothing like a little laugher,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson cracked.
Washington kicked off a six-game homestand with its sixth victory in the last seven games. The Nationals began the day eight games behind Cincinnati for the second NL wild-card spot.
Ohlendorf (3-0) pitched five innings of two-hit ball before Christian Yelich led off the sixth with his second homer, ending the starter’s outing. It was Ohlendorf’s second start since he was sidelined by right shoulder inflammation.
“He’s done that now several times,” Johnson said when asked if Ohlendorf hit a wall in the sixth, when his velocity was noticeably lower. “I was kind of ready for it with (Tanner) Roark. He just kind of ran out gas like he did the game before.”
Roark, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard each pitched a hitless inning before Rafael Soriano finished the four-hitter for his 34th save.
Roark pitched out of trouble in the sixth after walking Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison with one out. Clippard handled the top of Miami’s order in the eighth, including three straight swinging strikes against the dangerous Stanton.
“I just wanted to get ahead of him and once I threw strike one I wanted to go after him because he was going to be aggressive,” Clippard said. “That’s what I did, and he chased a couple of fastballs and I got him.”
Yelich finished with two hits for Miami, which has lost six of seven. Nathan Eovaldi (2-5) allowed two runs — both in the first — and eight hits in six innings.
“I thought Eovaldi looked good, he pitched a good game, he gave us a chance to win,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said.
“The bullpen did a nice job and really had it laid out perfectly. Just didn’t score the runs. Four hits, we’ve kind of seen this story before a few times this year.”
The Washington victory came in the opener of a stretch of 19 consecutive games against the Marlins, Mets and Phillies, all NL East teams below .500.
“Now’s the time,” Johnson said before the game. “I still think we need to win close to 90 games (to make the playoffs). So every game we need to play well, we need to pitch well.”
Ohlendorf and the bullpen took care of the pitching, and the lineup did just enough damage in the first.
Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper had consecutive one-out singles, putting runners on the corners. Zimmerman scored on Jayson Werth’s groundout and Desmond singled in Harper to make it 2-0.
“Just ran into some trouble in that first inning,” said Eovaldi, who is 0-5 with a 4.30 ERA in his last eight starts. “And if I can just avoid that one inning here and there, I feel like I’d be a lot better off.”
Washington totaled seven baserunners after the first, but couldn’t add to its run total. All nine Nationals hits were singles.
Ohlendorf retired his first nine batters before Yelich singled to start the fourth. Stanton then doubled with one out and Logan Morrison was walked intentionally to load the bases.
Ohlendorf then fanned Ed Lucas and got Justin Ruggiano to ground into a fielder’s choice, ending the threat.
“He was great. He made pitches. He threw some good breaking balls,” Johnson said.
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