His team atop the standings and scoring runs by the bundle, Mike Redmond sat inside the dugout at Nationals Park before the Marlins’ first road battle on Tuesday and declared that “it feels great.”
“Everybody’s skeptical, right?” the manager asked.
For most, probably, yes.
Could the Marlins really maintain their red-hot scoring pace, much less the winning?
On Tuesday, Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals gave the Marlins a reality check with a 5-0 victory in what was the first stern test for Miami.
The Hialeah native held the Marlins to only three hits, all singles, over six scoreless innings, and Washington’s bullpen did the rest as the Nationals showed why many are picking them to win the division.
Their pitching is that good. And their hitting isn’t bad, either.
Henderson Alvarez, returning to the mound for the first time since his season debut lasted but three innings in which he coughed up six runs on seven hits, turned in a much better outing Tuesday. He held the Nationals to three runs — only one of which was earned — before being lifted in the sixth.
But it still wasn’t good enough to prevail.
Adam LaRoche gave the Nationals the early lead with a two-out RBI single in the first, and the Nationals scored twice more in the sixth after second baseman Jeff Baker dropped Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s throw on what would have been an inning-ending tag out.
Instead, the Nationals took advantage of the miscue to pad their lead.
“We made a mistake and gave them an extra out, and they capitalized on it,” Redmond said.
Not that the Nats needed any extra cushion, not the way the Marlins’ bats were silenced most of the night.
The extent of the Marlins’ offense while facing Gonzalez was Garrett Jones’ successful bunt against the shift and a couple of singles in the third by Giancarlo Stanton and Adeiny Hechavarria. Otherwise, it was slim pickings at the plate.
“I was just expecting us to come out tonight and score some runs, and I’m a little disappointed in that, in being shut out,” Redmond said.
After the Stanton single in the third, Gonzalez retired the final 10 batters he faced before leaving after 101 pitches.
The Marlins were shut out 18 times last season, with four of those coming at Nationals Park. While there’s nothing to suggest their offensive woes will continue in D.C., Tuesday’s loss by the Marlins served notice that the Nationals are not any more yielding.
“It seems like a great hitter’s park to me, too,” Redmond said. “For whatever reason, these guys have some good pitchers, but we’ve got to find a way to score some runs.”
Only once did the Marlins threaten to put a speck on the scoreboard, and that came after Gonzalez was tucked away for the night. The Marlins managed to put two on with one out in the seventh. Drew Storen took care of that minor scare by retiring Reed Johnson on a finely fielded bunt by Nationals backup third baseman Anthony Rendon and pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs’ fly ball to left.
The Nationals stretched the lead in the eighth on Rendon’s two-run double off Mike Dunn. Rendon, who is filling in for an injured Ryan Zimmerman, drove in three runs.