When they needed him most -- and just like he has all season -- Michael Morse came though. Trailing 4-3 with two outs in the top of the ninth, Morse jacked his 30th home run of the season, leading the Washington Nationals not only to a 6-4 win over the staggering Florida Marlins, but a clinch of third place for the first time for this franchise since the move in 2005.
The Nats record is 79-80 with two games remaining, keeping their dream alive of an over-.500 record for the first time since the move. Washington has won 14 of their last 18 games to close the season on a strong, competitive note.
Morse's blast made a winner of Atahualpa Severino, his first win in the big leagues. Henry Rodriguez, fresh of his "Nintendo"-like appearance the other night, gave up a hit in an otherwise uneventful bottom of the ninth for his second save of the season.
Nats starter Tommy Milone didn't have his best start of the season, allowing seven hits and a walk over 4 1/3 innings. He departed with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. Craig Stammen took over and allowed an inherited run to tie the game at three on a wild pitch, but escaped further damaged, inducing a couple of pop ups to end the inning.
Ian Desmond had another big night out of the leadoff spot, going 2-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored. He also stole a base, one of five on the night for the Nationals against Marlins catcher John Buck.
The Nats have made a remarkable run at the end of the season to elevate themselves into third place for the first time in their brief tenure in D.C. It's difficult to make too many judgments based on September baseball, but the series they took against the Braves, who are fighting for their playoff lives was impressive enough. And no matter the circumstances, the Nats always have trouble with the Marlins, who own a 10-6 record against the Nats this season.
Still, it's refreshing to see the team playing as hard and as well as they have in September, especially with the troubles this franchise has had in the past playing out the string. It's a testament to the talent base -- and the club's leadership, primarily the field manager -- that these Nationals aren't settling for the end of the season.
THE GOOD: Ian Desmond. Since being inserted at the top of the Nats lineup on Aug. 17, he's hit .299/.335/.437 with four homers, 12 RBIs and 23 runs.
THE BAD: Danny Espinosa went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. But he did walk twice as well, so not all bad.
THE UGLY: Todd Coffey had a rare bad outing, giving up a hit and walk tot he only two batters he faced. Sean Burnett was able to bail him out in the seventh.
THE STATS: 10 hits, 6 BBs, 8 Ks. 3-for-11 w/RISP, 10 LOB, 2 GIDP. E: Werth (8).
NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 7:10 pm against at the Marlins. John Lannan (10-13, 3.73) faces Javier Vazquez (12-11, 3.77).