WASHINGTON — Miami Marlins starter Justin Nicolino couldn’t find the plate in the first inning Saturday against the Washington Nationals.
So the Nationals did.
Nicolino walked the first three Washington hitters – each of whom scored – and the Nationals held on to defeat the Marlins 6-4 in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
Staked to a 1-0 lead thanks to Christian Yelich’s first-inning homer off Stephen Strasburg, Nicolino (2-1) managed just two strikes while loading the bases.
“I kind of was all over the place,” Nicolino said.
“That’s a good-hitting lineup and you definitely don’t want to make mistakes to them, but to walk three guys to start the game, that’s even worse than making mistakes.”
The lefthander actually limited the damage as two Washington runs scored on flyouts before Jayson Werth’s RBI single.
Nicolino, 24, settled down, allowing four runs on five hits and a career-high five walks in 4 2/3 innings.
“That’s not really characteristic of him,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s usually a guy that’s in the strike zone making guys swing the bat.”
Three times the Marlins got within one run, but they never tied it.
“The guys did a nice job of coming back,” Mattingly said. “Obviously we weren’t able to get over the hill.”
Yelich added an RBI double for Miami, which has lost five of seven.
Giancarlo Stanton went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts and stranded four baserunners.
Strasburg (6-0) struck out seven over six innings in his first start since agreeing to a seven-year, $175 million deal this week.
He allowed three runs and five hits for his second victory over the Marlins this season.
Washington has won three in a row, including two straight to open the four-game series with Miami.
Wilson Ramos hit a solo home run in the sixth as five Nationals drove in at least one run.
Jonathan Papelbon, one of three relievers backing up Strasburg, pitched the ninth for his 11th save.
Though not sharp, Strasburg never surrendered the early lead despite the Marlins’ peskiness. He matched his season-high with three walks and allowed at least one base runner in every inning.
Miami scored single runs in the fifth and sixth only for Washington to counter in the bottom of both innings as rain fell, eventually turning the infield muddy.
The Marlins committed two errors in the eighth when Washington scored its final run.
“I don’t think I’ve played in puddles since like American Legion, so I guess they’ve changed the.I don’t know what they’re thinking today,” Mattingly said.
“The conditions just make it tougher for everybody. Both teams are playing in it.”
Michael Taylor reached base four times with a double, single and two walks for the Nationals.
Marlins CF Marcell Ozuna’s went 2 for 4, extending his hitting streak to 13 games. With eight multi-hit games during that stretch, he’s raised his batting average from .218 to .302. “(Ozuna) does a nice job of using the whole field,” Mattingly said.
Nationals: Washington rested outfielder Ben Revere for the opening game with Taylor starting in center. … Outfielder Matt den Dekker was added from Triple-A Syracuse as the 26th man for the doubleheader. He pinch-hit in the eighth, reached on an error and scored on Taylor’s double.
Miami RHP Kendry Flores was scheduled to make his 2016 debut in the second game of the doubleheader. Flores, called up Saturday from Triple-A New Orleans as the Marlins’ 26th player, posted a 4.97 ERA in seven games with Miami in 2015. RHP Tanner Roark (2-2, 2.03) starts for Washington.
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