The Marlins only had to deal with Max Scherzer for one inning.
Lucky for them.
The Marlins rallied from a 6-0 deficit to defeat the Nationals 7-6 after Scherzer, who flirted with a no-hitter the last time he faced them, took himself out with neck spasms after pitching one inning.
“After he got out of the game, I say, ‘Well, we have a chance to win the game,’” said Marcell Ozuna. “The best pitcher in the big leagues going out because of an injury, we have a chance.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
And it was all due to a bad night’s sleep. Scherzer complained that he “slept funny” the night before taking the mound at Marlins Park.
It all worked out in the end for the Marlins.
But it didn’t start so well for them.
Scherzer launched his first career home run, a three-run shot off Chris O’Grady, in the Nationals’ six-run second inning. But when Scherzer went back out to pitch the second, he threw one wild warmup pitch, made a throat-slashing gesture toward the Nationals dugout, and told Washington manager Dusty Baker “I can’t go.”
“Them losing him early was probably the key,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “Gives you a little hope that you can get back in a little bit. Not that you can’t do it with him. But your chances aren’t very good.”
Said Ozuna: “I say ‘Let’s see what happens now. After he came out, I told everybody in the dugout, ‘Okay, we have a chance.’”
It was left it up to the Nationals’ shaky bullpen to protect a 6-0 lead.
The Marlins scored a run in the third and two more in the fourth before coming up with four in the fifth to take a 7-6 lead. Ozuna, who went 3 for 4, came up with the big hit, a three-run shot off Matt Albers. The home run for Ozuna was his 25th.
That made it 6-6.
J.T. Realmuto followed with a single before Derek Dietrich tripled off the wall in center to put the Marlins on top, 7-6.
While Scherzer was gone after one inning, O’Grady lasted just three for the Marlins. But both bullpens should have been plenty rested. Gio Gonzalez carried a no-hitter into the ninth on Monday before losing it on Dee Gordon’s leadoff single. His counterpart, Jose Urena, went eight innings in the 1-0 loss.
Mattingly used five different relievers to cover the final six innings without allowing a run. Brad Ziegler worked the ninth for his first save since taking over in the closer’s role for A.J. Ramos, who was traded to the Mets on Friday.
“They fought so hard to get back in this, it’s not a game we can lose,” Ziegler said of the bullpen’s mentality after the lineup dug the Marlins out of a deep hole.
Ziegler hadn’t pitched in six weeks after landing on the disabled list with a back injury. Though he has plenty of bullpen experience, he said he said his heart was pumping when he took over in the ninth.
“I had to fight a lot of adrenalin, a lot more than usual,” Ziegler said. “I think some of it’s because I hadn’t faced a big-league hitter in six weeks.”
Ziegler retired the first two batters before giving up back-to-back singles to Howie Kendrick and Bryce Harper, which put runners at the corners for Ryan Zimmerman.
But Zimmerman swung at the first pitch he saw from Ziegler, rolling a grounder to Dietrich at third for the final out.