MIAMI — As the Washington Nationals prepared to take the field with a three-run lead in the ninth, they braced themselves for another comeback bid by the feisty Miami Marlins.
This time the Nationals held on — barely. Drew Storen allowed two runs before securing the final out for his first save since August 2013, and Washington averted a series sweep by snapping Miami’s six-game winning streak with a 4-3 victory Wednesday.
“It’s not always going to be pretty,” Storen said. “It’s about getting it done. That’s all that matters.”
Manager Matt Williams decided to rest closer Rafael Soriano, who hasn’t pitched since he blew a three-run ninth-inning lead in Washington’s loss Monday. That left Storen to try to finish off the Marlins, who had won nine of their past 10 games to rejoin the playoff race.
“That’s a good team over there,” the Nationals’ Ian Desmond said. “In the dugout going out for the bottom of the ninth we were telling each other, ‘Hey, we’ve got to focus and finish this thing out.’ For a while we’ve seen the Marlins getting better. This series was evidence of that. That bottom of the ninth was evidence of that.”
NL RBI leader Giancarlo Stanton led off the ninth with his 24th homer, and Adeiny Hechavarria doubled home a run. Storen retired Reid Johnson on a forceout with two on for the final out.
“I was happy to see us come back and put some pressure on them,” Stanton said. “I really envisioned us tying that game up.”
Tanner Roark (11-6), who allowed one run in seven innings, won his fourth start in a row for the first-place Nationals.
“We’re pushing toward winning the NL East,” Roark said. “It’s fun to watch this team, especially when you have four days off and you’re watching from the dugout.”
How did Roark feel watching the bottom of the ninth?
“A little nervous,” he said with a smile, “but we knew Drew had it on lockdown.”
Soriano will be available Thursday when Washington plays host to Philadelphia, Williams said.
Jayson Werth, back in the lineup after missing one start because of a sore right ankle, put the Nationals ahead to stay with a sacrifice fly in their three-run eighth. Desmond added a two-out, two-run double off A.J. Ramos.
Brad Hand (2-3) allowed three runs in seven-plus innings.
The Nationals begin an eight-game homestand and a four-game series against the Phillies on Thursday, when Gio Gonzalez is scheduled to start against Cliff Lee.
Miami opens a four-game home series against Cincinnati on Thursday when Tom Koehler pitches against Johnny Cueto. Koehler is 4-3 with a 2.75 ERA at home this year, and 3-4 with a 4.96 ERA on the road.
WORKING THE PHONES
With Thursday’s trade deadline looming, the Marlins and Nationals are both looking for an upgrade.
That’s a change for the Marlins thanks to the recent surge that put them back in the playoff picture. They’re seeking a starting pitcher, presidential of baseball operations Mike Hill said.
“Ten days ago people may have thought we were sellers, and they were coming at us one way. Now it’s completely 180,” Hill said. “We’re going to do our best to try to upgrade, but we’re not going to be foolish. We’re not going to be shortsighted.”
The Nationals are also potential buyers.
“Do we want to have somebody that’s going to make an impact? Sure,” Williams said. “That may not be available. There are some guys we’re taking a hard look at.”
Before the game, Marlins infielder Ed Lucas was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans. He had been sent down July 20.
“I must be a pretty bad teammate if as soon as I’m gone they rattle off nine out of 10,” Lucas said with a chuckle. “It kind of makes you question yourself a little bit.”
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)