WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – It was a game that the Miami Marlins will want to forget.READ MORE: Celtics torch Heat early, even series with 102-82 blowout
On the other hand, it was a memorable weekend for Yunel Escobar, the third baseman for the Washington Nationals.
He set a career high for hits in a season on Saturday — surpassing the 158 he had in 2009 with the Atlanta Braves — and on Sunday he reached base five times in a game for the second time this year and eighth in his career.
The right-handed hitter, now batting .324 with 163 hits, went 4-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs and Bryce Harper had three hits, a walk and scored three times as the Washington Nationals, with three big innings, thrashed the Marlins 13-3 on Sunday.
Escobar “is not thinking too much about numbers,” he said through a translator.
After a three-run double in the sixth, Escobar raised his arms toward to the Nationals dugout.
“That (emotion) is part of (my) game,” said Escobar, acquired from the Oakland A’s in a trade for reliever Tyler Clippard in January.
The numbers are also impressive for Harper, the MVP candidate whose average is up to .343 with an on-base mark of .470.
Starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg benefitted from the offensive explosion as he improved to 10-7 while allowing two runs (one earned) and six hits with 10 strikeouts in seven innings. He has now struck out 37 batters in his last three starts to set a Nationals franchise record.
“They are a hot team right now. I just pitched my game. I am just trying to keep it simple and do what I am capable of doing,” said Strasburg, who came off the disabled list Aug. 8 with a left oblique strain. “Obviously my arm feels fine.”
The Nationals (78-71), who won the last three games of the four-game series, momentarily pulled to within 6 1/2 games of the first-place New York Mets, who face the Yankees on Sunday night.
“Not even thinking about that,” said Escobar, who added he thinks the team is looser if they don’t worry about the standings.
“They haven’t quit. I’m proud of them for that,” said Washington manager Matt Williams. “They have a desire to win.”
The Marlins (64-86) lost a series for the first time since dropping two of three in Washington in late August.
Washington scored seven runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach after they scored three in the first.
Catcher Wilson Ramos had a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and first baseman Tyler Moore unloaded a three-run homer into the Marlins bullpen in left to make it 7-2 in the sixth. Later in the inning Escobar cleared the bases with his double to right-center to build the margin to 10-2.
It was the second day in a row that Moore, a seldom-used starter, had hit a homer midway through the game.
“It feels good,” Moore said. “It is fun to get out there and compete.”READ MORE: Miami Beach’s Deauville Hotel, made famous by the Beatles, poised for a comeback
Starter Justin Nicolino (3-4), who was pulled after the Moore homer, gave up seven hits and seven runs in 4 2/3 innings.
“He gets the sac fly and I’m thinking, all right,” said Marlins manager Dan Jennings. “We got a chance here to get out of it. Obviously, hindsight I should’ve went to get him. Three-run homer there and it ended up to be just too big of a mountain to climb.”
Nicolino saw his ERA rise to 4.50.
“We were pounding the zone in and out,” he said. “We started using the curveball third, fourth inning. It was effective today. We were throwing it early in the count. We were able to use it as a put away pitch. Like I said, we ran into trouble in the sixth and just couldn’t come back from it.”
Miami had trimmed the margin to 3-2 on a solo homer in the sixth by center fielder Marcell Ozuna, his ninth of the year and first since Sept. 2.
The Marlins had pulled to within 3-1 in the second as third baseman Derek Dietrich scored on a throwing error by shortstop Ian Desmond.
The Nationals scored three runs in the first against Nicolino, making his first career start against Washington.
Left fielder Jayson Werth had a two-run double that went over the head of Ozuna. Then on the relay catcher Tomas Telis couldn’t hold onto the ball as Harper slid into him and scored.
Desmond, who turned 30 on Sunday, followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Nationals a 3-0 lead.
Ozuna added his second hit, an RBI double in the eighth off reliever Matt Grace, to make the score 10-3.
Washington’s Pedro Severino, 22, made his major league debut in the eighth as a he pinch-hit for Grace and lined a double off the wall in left off fellow Dominican Jose Urena.
“It felt great. I was just waiting for my time,” said Severino, called up from the minors on Sept. 1.
Escobar then had his fourth hit, an RBI single, to give the Nationals a lead of 11-3. Reserve outfielder Matt den Dekker had a two-run single to score Escobar and Harper for a 13-3 bulge in the eighth.
Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas had two of the hits off Strasburg and left fielder Christian Yelich also had two hits.
Strasburg lowered his ERA to 3.81 as he fanned at least 10 times for the 20th time in his career. He is 5-2 with an ERA of 2.24 since Aug. 8.
“I don’t think it’s mentality, I think it’s health,” Williams said. “He feels good. And when he feels good, you can see him running the ball in there at 98 miles-an-hour today. That’s pretty impressive.”
NOTES: After a day off Monday the Marlins will begin a series on Tuesday at home with the Phillies as Miami RHP Tom Koehler (10-13, 3.90) faces RHP Aaron Harang (5-15, 5.04) of Philadelphia … Washington will begin a series at home Monday as LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-7, 3.83) of the Nationals goes against Baltimore RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (11-9, 4.31) … RHP Stephen Strasburg, the Washington starter on Sunday, tied his personal best with 14 strikeouts in his previous start on Tuesday at Philadelphia.MORE NEWS: Property insurance changes aimed at stabilizing market
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