- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2018

Mark Reynolds pointed toward the Washington Nationals’ dugout as he jogged toward first base. His game-winning homer looped toward the visitors’ bullpen. His teammates spilled onto the field in elation.

Reynolds, a pinch hitter in the ninth inning, had been looking for a similar outcome one pitch before, when he unloaded on a 3-0 fastball and fouled it off. When Miami Marlins reliever Kyle Barraclough offered another fastball inside, Reynolds turned on it to give the Nationals a 3-2 win.

It didn’t feature the explosive offense displayed Thursday night, when both squads combined to score 26 runs, but Friday’s victory put Washington one game above .500 once more. Reynolds’ longball extended the Nationals’ winning streak over the Marlins to 13 games. His towering fly ball secured Washington’s first set of back-to-back wins since June 5 and 6.

“Can’t say enough about Mark. I mean, he’s that guy,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We needed one swing, just like that. You know, thought about pinch-hitting Michael [Taylor]. He gets on, you can steal, but then what? So I said, ‘Hey, we need somebody who can hit a home run right now,’ and Mark was the perfect guy, and he did.”

Before Adam Eaton doused Reynolds with the contents of a Gatorade container, Washington squandered its chance to go ahead in the eighth. Drew Steckenrider walked two batters and allowed a single to load the bases with one out, yet Eaton lined out to left field, Wilmer Difo popped out to shortstop and Daniel Murphy flew out to center field, stranding Anthony Rendon at third.

The Marlins, though, missed out on key chances to score, too. Four times their leadoff man reached base, and four times double plays turned by the Nationals helped starter Gio Gonzalez and reliever Justin Miller scamper out of danger.

Gonzalez, who hasn’t recorded a win since May 28 and who hasn’t worked into the seventh inning for a month, held Miami to two runs despite allowing eight hits and four walks through five frames while striking out four.

Miami loaded the bases in the fifth and Gonzalez walked in a run, but he struck out the final two batters to conclude the threat.

“That’s kind of Gio’s m.o. — get a runner on third base with nobody out, strike the next two guys out and then get a pop fly. That’s kind of how he goes about his business and he’s made a career out of it, a heck of a career at that,” Eaton said. “It’s an art for him, I feel like it really is, to get in those jams and get out of it. We’re all biting our nails and very scared in the moment, but like I said, he ended up getting out of things.”

The Nationals had been in a 5-17 slump prior to consecutive wins over the Marlins. Following a sweep by the Boston Red Sox, Washington veterans called a players-only meeting. The play hasn’t been infallible since then but sitting in third place in the National League East, wins like Friday’s are necessary.

“I feel like the team feels more inspired,” Wilmer Difo said. “That’s the way it feels in the dugout and hopefully from here on it things are going to change.”

Miller pointed his glove at Turner in the sixth when the shortstop ranged to his right and made an off-balance throw to Difo at second to start the fourth double play.

Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle worked clean innings to preserve the deadlock for Reynolds to lead off the ninth. After Barraclough fell behind 3-0, Reynolds was looking fastball. He got one and won the contest.

“If I’m up there and it’s 0-2, I’m obviously not, like, looking to turn on something,” Reynolds said. “I know Davey put me up there for one reason.”


• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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