- The Washington Times
Monday, July 4, 2022

For Nationals fans, the 2022 Miami Marlins may as well be the 1927 Yankees. 

But make no mistake, the Marlins are far from being a great team, let alone the ‘27 Yanks. Take away the Marlins’ 12 wins and one loss versus Washington this season, and they’re one of the worst teams in baseball with a .400 winning percentage. 

The difficulty against the Fish only became more pronounced this weekend. The Nationals entered the home tilt with back-to-back series victories, but that balloon was popped by Miami, which left town with a four-game sweep of Washington.

Outfielder Bryan De La Cruz delivered the 3-2 victory for the Marlins on Monday afternoon, smashing a two-run home run off the left-field foul pole in the 10th inning to celebrate the nation’s birthday with a win over the home team.

Washington’s struggles against the Marlins, who are below .500 and solidly in fourth place in the National League East, show how far the rebuilding Nationals have to go in order to compete with top teams like the Mets and Braves.

“I’m about as frustrated as anybody,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “A lot of these games, we should win, but we’re not. But those guys are frustrated too, and they’re playing hard and not giving up. We’ve got to try to come out with some wins on the other side of what we’re going through now.”

The main reason the Marlins have been so successful against the Nationals is their pitching staff. With top-end starters Sandy Alcantara (1.95 earned-run average) and Pablo Lopez (2.97 ERA) leading the way, the Marlins have given up more than four runs to the Nationals just once this season — five runs in an extra-inning loss on May 18. Overall, Washington has scored just 32 times against Miami (2.46 per game), compared to the 69 Marlins runners who have crossed the plate. 

“They have some great pitching over there, and they obviously play some good defense,” Nationals starting pitcher Patrick Corbin said after Monday’s no-decision. “We’ve been in a lot of games vs. them and just haven’t been on the right side of them. Today could’ve gone either way, but it seems like they’ve been pitching a little bit better, playing a little better defense and scoring a little bit more than we have.”

However, it’s not as if the Nationals have been world-beaters against the rest of the big leagues. Washington is 29-53 — the second-worst mark in the Senior Circuit and third-worst in the entire league. Take away the drubbings by the Marlins, and the Nationals are still a lowly 28-41. 

The poor results extend to the rest of the NL East, too. The Nationals are 2-8 against the Mets, 2-4 versus the Braves and 1-4 when playing the Phillies. Their overall run differential in 34 games against NL East opponents (six wins, 28 losses) is 106-201. 

One impediment for the Nationals’ lineup Monday was the fact that it didn’t consist of Juan Soto. The 23-year-old superstar didn’t start after injuring his left calf and leaving in the fifth inning of Sunday’s matinee. He said before the game that his MRI came back clean and that his calf was “just a little bit tight.” 

However, Soto was able to pinch-hit with the game tied in the eighth. Soto took a four-pitch walk to give Lane Thomas and Josh Bell opportunities with the bases loaded. But Thomas and Bell squandered the opportunities with a pop-up and a fly out, respectively. Despite having him pinch-hit, Martinez said after the game that Soto is “day-to-day” as the Nationals prepare for a three-game set against the Phillies. 

Like Sunday when Washington was no-hit through six innings by Lopez, the bats remained cold against Braxton Garrett. The Marlins starter shut out the Nationals through seven innings before Luis Garcia’s RBI single in the eighth tied the game. 

“They keep our hitters off-balanced,” Martinez said about Miami’s pitching staff. “It takes us a while to figure out that we need to get the ball up. We’re a good fastball hitting team, but we have to see the ball up.”

Garrett wasn’t the only southpaw who shoved, though. 

Corbin, who has struggled since winning Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, tossed seven innings of one-run ball to keep the Nationals in the game. Five days after punching out 12 batters in a win against Pittsburgh last week, the 32-year-old lefty scattered eight hits and one walk while striking out four. His ERA, which had been north of 6.00 since his second start of the season, is now 5.68. 

“Corbin, once again, was really good,” Martinez said. “He was awesome, actually.”

De La Cruz’s game-winning blast came off Nationals closer Tanner Rainey with two outs. The loss is the third of the season for Rainey, who also gave up a two-run home run Sunday to blow his fourth save. The Nationals got a run back in the bottom of the 10th when Garcia grounded into a double play to bring home the ghost runner, but Marlins reliever Dylan Floro then shut the door for the save. 

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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