by Anthony Amobi, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON – After a thrilling come-from-behind win last night, the Washington Nationals opened up their three-game set with the Florida Marlins in the loss column, defeated 4-2, before 20,161 at Nationals Park.

Despite a solid night by Washington starter Craig Stammen, his bullpen mates could not hold off their opponents. With the score tied at two in the eighth inning, Brian Bruney – who had come into the game in relief of Stammen in the seventh – continued a string of erratic and uneven performances.

He managed to get through the seventh inning unscathed; however, the Marlins would get him in the eighth. Bruney allowed a leadoff single to Bryan Petersen--his first career MLB hit--to start the frame, and then allowed Chris Coghlan to reach on an error.

Moments later, Gaby Sanchez would inflict the damage with an RBI-single that broke the tie to plate Petersen. After an intentional walk to Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu would plate Coghlan with a sacrifice fly to raise Florida’s score to 4-2.

The Nationals made things interesting in the ninth inning against Marlins closer Leo Nunex.  Adam Kennedy – who pinch hit for pitcher Tyler Walker – singled, and then with two outs in the frame, Willie Harris looked to bring his team within a run of the lead with a stroke to right field. However, Harris’ apparent hit was in foul territory and was mere inches from the foul line.

With another chance to keep the Nationals alive, Harris unfortunately ground out to the shortstop to end the game--another comeback win averted.

Stammen bounced back from a horrible start against the Marlins last weekend and on Friday night looked as good as he’s been all year. He gave up two runs – one earned – on eight hits, striking out eight and walking none. 

Bruney (L, 1-2, 6.00), who pitched the eighth inning where the Marlins decided the game, took the loss.

Meanwhile, Chris Volstad (W, 3-2, 4.12), who started the game for Florida on the mound, earned the win. Closer Nunez finished the game to earn his fifth save.

Washington got on the scoreboard first in the opening inning as Josh Willingham plated Cristian Guzman with an RBI fielder's choice. Florida tied the game in the second inning off a Cody Ross RBI-double scoring catcher Jeff Baker.

The Nationals retook the lead in the sixth inning, as Ryan Zimmerman hit his fifth homer of the season--a solo shot.  However, the Marlins struck back and tied the game as Jorge Cantu hit a solo shot of his own – his seventh homer of the season – to tie the game at two.

Game two of the weekend series it Saturday at 1:00 pm.  Matt Chico is expected to be recalled from Double-A Harrisburg for the start for Washington, taking the rotation spot of John Lannan who is nursing a sore elbow.  Chico will face Josh Johnson (3-1) for the Marlins.

After the game, Justin Maxwell was sent down to Triple-A Syracuse to make room for Chico on the 25-man roster.

Willie Harris after his two fantastic catches
Roger Bernadina diving for a foul ball

All Photos 2010 © Cheryl Nichols Photography/Nationals News Network. All Rights Reserved.


In other news, Friday night was also an important one for the future of the Washington Nationals as Stephen Strasburg made his Triple-A debut for the Syracuse Chiefs.

Much like Strasburg did during his brief tenure with the Harrisburg Senators, he impressed and delivered with Syracuse.

The Chiefs earned a 7-0 win over the Gwinnett Braves as Strasburg went six shutout innings.  He fanned six, walked one, and also showed some prowess with the bat, driving in two of Syracuse's seven runs.

His outing on Friday against Gwinett was not a fair fight at all. In fact, Strasburg was flat out dominant.

Starsburg threw 65 pitches, 45 for strikes and lit up the radar gun – hitting 98 miles per hour at points with his blazing fastball, plus using an impressive repertoire of off-speed pitches to stymie his opponents.

If all goes well, fans of Nationals may not wait that much longer to see the phenom come up to the majors.

It's widely recognized that Strasburg should make his major league debut as a member of the Nationals in early June, if all goes well with his stint in Triple-A.