WASHINGTON (AP) — Bryce Harper returned to the lineup, but neither his bat nor spot starter A.J. Cole helped the Washington Nationals in their pursuit of home-field advantage opening the playoffs.
Christian Yelich homered and Dee Gordon’s infield single in the sixth inning scored the go-ahead run as the Miami Marlins beat the NL East champion Nationals 6-4 on Friday night.
The game began following a 1 hour, 43 minute rain delay. The series opener came a day after a memorial service in Florida for Jose Fernandez. The Marlins ace died in a boating accident Sunday.
Washington entered its final series of the season with a two-game lead on the Los Angeles Dodgers for home field advantage in the NL Division Series. Los Angeles played at San Francisco on Friday night.
Harper went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in his return to the Nationals lineup after sitting out the previous four days with a left thumb injury.
“He was rusty,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said of the right fielder. “We’ve got to get that rust off him before we start the playoffs.”
Harper said of his plate appearances, “I felt great. My swing felt great.”
Anthony Rendon and Stephen Drew hit back-to-back home runs for Washington in a four-run fourth after Miami scored twice in the top of the inning for a 4-0 lead.
Miami used five relievers including Mike Dunn (6-1). A.J. Ramos pitched the ninth for his 40th save.
Sammy Solis (2-4) allowed one run in 1 1/3 innings for Washington.
The Nationals honored Fernandez with a pregame video montage, by placing his No. 16 behind the pitcher’s mound and his jersey in their dugout. A mutual tipping of the caps across the field between players from both teams occurred as well.
“Nice touch by the Nationals,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of the mound gesture. “It seems like everyone has that feel for Jose. The way he carried himself and the fun that he had was really what you loved so much about him, that little kid, and that part is what seems like has taken hold on a lot of people around baseball and a lot of people around the country.”
Neither starting pitcher went beyond four innings and both allowed four runs. Two runs off Cole, the first of eight pitchers for Washington, were unearned.
Cole, who lasted three innings, is awaiting appeal of his five-game suspension for throwing behind Pittsburgh’s Jung Ho Kang on Sunday.
Miami’s Andrew Cashner unraveled in the fourth, allowing five hits and one walk. Jose Loboton’s RBI double and Trea Turner’s run-scoring single in the fourth tied the game 4-4.
Over the final five innings, the Nationals went 0 for 15 with 10 strikeouts and one walk.
Left fielder Jayson Werth left as a precaution in the seventh inning with back tightness. He anticipates playing Saturday.
“We’re playing for home-field advantage, which is important. But once you win the division, there’s that exhale and sigh of relief,” Werth said. “There’s a balance there and you err on the side of caution.”
Yelich drove in two runs. Justin Bour had a double and two RBI singles and he scored on the hustling Gordon’s single off Oliver Perez.
Rendon became the sixth National with at least 20 home runs this season. The 1965 Milwaukee Braves, 2003 Atlanta Braves and 2016 St. Louis Cardinals, who reached the mark later Friday, are the only other NL teams in history with six 20-plus homers.
The Arizona Diamondbacks occupied the visitor’s locker room this week before Miami arrived. When the Marlins arrived, they found a touching note on a dry erase board regarding the loss of Fernandez. “Dee Gordon had the most important HR of the year. Good luck fellas. Were (sic) praying for you. RIP. JF 16 — DBacks.”
BABY ON BOARD
Nationals OF Chris Heisey is away from the team as he returned home for the birth of his second child. He is the second player on the team to leave for this reason in recent weeks. “This team is a baby-making team,” Baker cracked. Heisey is expected back in Washington on Saturday.
Marlins: Mattingly said LHP Adam Conley, who came off the DL on Monday to throw three shutout innings, will be available the last two days of the season. Conley missed more than six weeks with a finger injury.
Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy (glute muscle), who last began a game on Sept. 17, isn’t expected back in the starting lineup until Game 1 of the NLDS.
Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (5-4, 5.02) is set to face Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.86), who needs a win to set a career-high.