Through Five: Nats 6, Marlins 3
Midway through the fifth, the Nationals lead the Marlins, 6-3. It still has the feel of a close game, somehow -- especially with Florida starter Josh Johnson (the NL ERA leader, circa 1:05 p.m.) settling down and Scott Olsen always capable of a lousy inning. Or more.
Let's start with how the Nationals scored. During the prior nine games this year, the Nationals made a habit of hitting well until the very moment when continued hitting would have driven in runs. To wit: Entering today, the Nats had pounded out 10 or more hits in six of nine games. They ranked third in the NL with a .280 batting average. But they ranked 11th in runs. It was all attributable to horrid situational hitting.
So here in the first inning was a perfect chance to remedy that.
The first four members of the lineup all reached. By the time Austin Kearns came to bat, the bases were loaded with one out. The Nats already led, 1-0.
Then, that lead grew in the fastest way possible. Kearns pulled a high and fat 1-2 pitch from Johnson several rows into the left field stands, resulting in his second career grand slam. That inning, Washington scored five runs on four hits -- yes, efficiency. The Nats left nobody on base.
Granted a 5-0 lead, Olsen didn't exactly have a textbook response, though. His second inning was rocky. The Marlins put together a single. A Ronny Paulino two-run homer. A double. Olsen nearly walked the pitcher, but recovered to escape with only two runs allowed. And since then, he's survived well enough. His velocity, always worth watching, looking worryingly nonexistent in the early going (mostly around 86 or 87), but in the third, it rose appreciably. During an at bat with Jorge Cantu, he hit 90 twice. Last game, if you'll recall, Olsen didn't hit 90 until the third inning either.
Florida scored its latest run in the top of the fifth, and it was unearned. With runners on first and third with two outs, Cantu popped to first. Should have been an easy inning-ender. But Nick Johnson lost the ball in the sun (or at least that's the logical conclusion), and couldn't find the ball until it rested on the infield. Olsen ended the inning one batter later.
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