The Marlins not only survived a harrowing outfield collision involving Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, but they lived to celebrate a 5-1 victory that gave Miami a four-game series split with the first-place Nationals.
That audible sigh of relief that could be heard all the way back to South Florida on Sunday was the Marlins’ front office, whose collective hearts probably skipped a beat when Stanton and Ozuna lie motionless on the track following their fourth-inning collision.
But both players got back on their feet and contributed to the win, with Stanton connecting on a solo homer and Ozuna stroking a sixth-inning single that extended his hitting streak to 15 games.
“It wasn’t like a head-on blaster,” relieved Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “But you don’t really know what happens on that, especially when they don’t get up. When they’re both just laying there, on the way out there, you’re not quite sure what you’re going to get.”
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Said pitcher Jose Fernandez, who saw it all unfold from the mound: “I was happy no one got hurt. That was scary. Very scary for us as a team. And not fun to watch. Not a good feeling. But everybody’s OK, and we got a W.”
Not to be forgotten in all the drama was Fernandez, who delivered perhaps his best outing of the season, striking out 11 in seven innings and helping his own cause with a two-run single.
Fernandez threw 117 pitches — the most of his career — and got better as the game went on. Of the final 12 outs he recorded, 10 were strikeouts.
“This was his best [start this season],” Mattingly said. “To me, this one was the easiest and smoothest. No true trouble.”
The only run Fernandez allowed came on the fielding mishap in the fourth when Ryan Zimmerman drove a ball into deep right-center. Stanton and Ozuna went chasing for the ball on converging paths. Their feet and shins clipped, causing them to lose their balance and suffer crash landings. Stanton struck the wall. Ozuna hit the warning track at full force.
Stanton said he was dazed momentarily.
“I had a good whiplash and smacked my hip pretty good,” Stanton said.
Ozuna, too, was out of it.
“I hit my head,” said Ozuna, adding that he thought he might have cracked his skull. “When I hit, I just see black. I was like breathe, breathe, breathe.”
All the while, Zimmerman was racing around the bases for an inside-the-park home run — what would prove to be the only scoring for the Nationals all game.
Stanton was the first to get up. Then Ozuna.
Somehow, both were able to remain in the game.
The Marlins scored their first two runs on a fluke, as well, when second baseman Stephen Drew dropped a routine pop in the third after losing the ball in the sun. Two runs scored as a result of the misplay.
“We got some cheap runs there,” Mattingly said.
The Marlins gave themselves some breathing room in the sixth when Stanton led off with his 11th homer of the season and the Nationals chose to intentionally walk Adeiny Hechavarria, loading the bases with two outs, in order to face Fernandez.
Fernandez ripped into Joe Ross’ first pitch for a two-run single that made it 5-1.
“When the pitcher gets a hit, it’s almost doubly painful,” Mattingly said of the significance of Fernandez’s two-run hit. “Jose is a guy who handles the bat well.”
Asked how much he enjoys hitting, Fernandez replied: “A lot.”
Sunday’s victory helped to salvage a series split for the Marlins, who dropped the first two games of the four-game set at Nationals Park but took the last two to remain three games over .500 at 20-17.