- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2019

Fifty-three games into the season, the Washington Nationals finally achieved it: three wins in a row. They just had to play only the worst team in the National League to do it.

The Nationals staved off the Miami Marlins 9-6 at home on Sunday afternoon, taking win No. 3 in a four-game series and digging a bit further out of baseball’s cellar despite another near-collapse from the bullpen.

Howie Kendrick finished with three hits with a home run and 3 RBI, and Anthony Rendon and Brian Dozier added 2 RBI apiece for the Nationals (22-31).

Manager Dave Martinez called it “gratifying” for the Nationals to string three wins together — the last team in MLB to do so — after their disappointing start to this season.

“We just definitely understand that the season’s still early,” Rendon added, “so we’ve got to continue to keep putting our work in and then trust that the work that we have put in is going to translate out to the field.”

In his second start of the season, Erick Fedde pitched five innings of shutout ball with four strikeouts to earn the win. He got into and out of jams in the third and fifth innings, keeping the Marlins’ runners at bay.

“Those are the moments you find out who you are, for sure,” Fedde said. “It’s the big leagues, bases loaded. You get some excitement going and I showed a little emotion there. It’s fun.”

One day after Patrick Corbin shut out Miami, the Marlins (16-34) couldn’t score Sunday until the eighth inning.

Kendrick got Washington on the board with a 409-foot solo homer during the second inning. In the third, the Marlins could have escaped without a run if Juan Soto swung for one more strike. Instead, Soto drew three straight balls and walked to extend the inning.

His patience was rewarded when Kendrick followed by driving in two runs on a single and Dozier next hit a deep two-run double off the wall.

Martinez was pleased, just hours after telling reporters before the game that he and his coaches often remind Soto to let pitchers walk him if they want.

“We’ve got guys behind you that can hit as well,” Martinez said. “Don’t start chasing pitches. I said, ‘You’re really good when you stop chasing pitches and you let the ball and the strike zone dictate whether you swing or not.”

A quick downpour in the sixth inning delayed the game for just 24 minutes, and when it resumed, so did the Nationals’ offense. Yan Gomes and pinch-hitter Michael A. Taylor hit back-to-back doubles to lead off, Rendon smacked a two-RBI triple and Soto brought Rendon in on a sacrifice fly to go up 9-0.

The Marlins put together a comeback effort against the continually vulnerable Washington bullpen. Neil Walker hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning off the recently acquired Javy Guerra.

In the ninth, James Bourque made his major league debut just one day after being called up from Double-A Harrisburg. Miami loaded the bases, in part because Dozier failed to make a game-ending throw to first, and Brian Anderson drove in three runs on a deep double off Bourque. Wander Suero allowed an inherited runner to come in from second base before finally putting the game to bed.

Despite the shaky ending, a pair of four-run innings provided plenty of cushion for the Nationals to produce the win.

“We talk about scoring in bunches. We’ve (been) piecing together some big innings, which is pretty good, throughout the middle of the game,” Dozier said. “You do that and be able to get a good pitcher like (Marlins starter) Caleb Smith — who’s been throwing the ball really well for them — get him out of there and get to the bullpen, that was how everything kind of transpired today.”

The Nationals conclude the series Monday with a 1:05 p.m. start for Memorial Day. Max Scherzer is scheduled to start.

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