Until he ran out of gas a little bit in the seventh inning, Chien-Ming Wang was his ground ball inducing best Sunday, getting seven such outs on the day. And with increasing confidence in his slider, throwing it more as a swing-and-miss pitch with two strikes, the Taiwan native also struck out five without walking a batter in the Washington Nationals 4-3 win over the Florida Marlins, before 26,581 at Nats Park.
Wang was sharp from the very beginning, allowing just one base runner — a single to Marlins pitcher Brad Hand — through four innings. Even after allowing a solo shot to Gaby Sanchez to lead off the fifth, Wang settled right back down, retiring the Marlins in order to finish off that inning.
Wang pitched out of a littel trouble in the sixth. A two-out single by marlins right fielder Mike Stanton put two on, but Wang got 1B Greg Dobbs to bounce out to first to get out of the jam.
In the seventh, Wang met his demise. He had two outs with the Marlins No. 8 hitter, backup catcher Brett Hayes, coming to bat. But Wang left a sinker too high in the zone and Hayes lined the pitch into the left field stands, making it a one-run game.
Manager Davey Johnson went to old reliable, Tyler Clippard, to end the inning, getting pinch-hitter Vinny Rottino to ground to third.
Clippard then had a 1-2-3 eighth and Drew Storen threw a perfect ninth inning for his 38th save of the season.
The win was the Nats 42nd at home this season, setting a team record for most home victories since the move in 2005.
Washington got two RBIs from Marrero, a sacrifice fly in the second and a ground rule double to rigth in the fourth to pace the Nats.
But that was about it from the offense, as the Nats managed just five hits on the day, two from Ryan Zimmerman.
Ten games remain to the 2011 season. The Nationals need one win to tie their previous second best mark since the move, and every win after that is gravy. One thing is for certain though. For maybe the very first time in their brief history in D.C., there is legitimate cause for optimism for the future of these Nationals.
THE GOOD: Clippard and Storen. 2 1/3 perfect relief innings with three strikeouts. That’s the definition of shut down.
THE BAD: The Marlins defense. The centerfielder botched a routine ball in on a easy line drive to allow the Nats second run to score, then the right fielder made a pretty terrible play on Marrero’s ball, which maybe could have been caught, before it bounced into the stands for the ground rule double.
THE UGLY: Jayson Werth. 0-for-4, and looked at 92 MPH right down the middle to end his last at bat.
THE STATS: 5 hits, 1 BB, 8 Ks. 2-for-6 w/RISP, 3 LOB, zero GISP. No errors.
NEXT GAME: Tuesday in Philadelphia. Game 1 at 1:05 pm features Ross Detwiler (2-5, 3.76) against Kyle Kendrick (8-6, 3.22). Game 2 at 7:05