WASHINGTON — The theme of the Marlins’ series sweep of the Nationals — completed with a 3-2 win on Thursday — was the starting pitching, something that has been a major strength for the club to begin the season.
“That’s our foundation,” manager Don Mattingly said before the game. “When your starters are consistently giving you five, six innings, that really helps your bullpen setup as good as you can, [because] we are a mix-and-match bullpen. And when your starters continue to get you to a decent spot in the game, then it allows you to use your guys. And if you are using enough guys, then everybody is kind of rested.”
Each Marlins starter in the series completed six innings. Sandy Alcantara and Pablo López combined for 12 innings across Tuesday and Wednesday and surrendered a combined one earned run to win the first two games.
Trevor Rogers then put together his second straight solid start as the Marlins dropped the Nationals in Thursday’s finale, completing their first series sweep of the season and their first since sweeping the Cubs last August.
The Marlins have won five straight for the first time since they enjoyed a six-game winning streak back in May of 2019.
Rogers allowed one unearned run over five innings in his previous start at Atlanta. Thursday afternoon, he continued that consistency by mixing his pitches.
“Felt great,” Rogers said of his first win. “All the pitches were working. [Catcher Payton] Henry and I had a great plan back there, just mixing all day. He did a fantastic job. Once I settled in, I was really just trying to make pitches and it worked out for me.”
Rogers (1-3) finished six innings, allowing one run on two hits to earn his first win of the season. Josh Bell’s RBI double in the first inning was all the Nationals could muster against him. Rogers has allowed only one earned run in his last 11 innings.
“I was able to kind of piggyback on my last start,” the left-hander said. “Got out of the first inning with only that one run. Got some things to clean up there in the first inning but I’m really happy with how I performed today.”
The bullpen did the rest. Anthony Bass, Richard Bleier and Cole Sulser combined to allow just one run over three innings, picking up where their starter left off again. Sulser recorded the final four outs to pocket his first save of the season.
“I think it’s great to see those guys getting the job done and it definitely shortens the game when we are having to cover [only] a couple of innings,” Bleier said during pregame. “It’s much easier. We could do matchups for two, three innings and really get guys in situations that they should be successful in.”
The game featured a scary moment in the top of the seventh, as Miguel Rojas was hit on the C-flap of his helmet near his left jaw on a high fastball that got away from Nationals starter Patrick Corbin. Pinch-hitter Jesús Sánchez then delivered a tiebreaking RBI single to right field to score Brian Anderson, who had doubled to lead off the inning. Rojas later scored on a wild pitch.
“When you see Miggy get hit like that, I think that helmet may have saved him,” Mattingly said. “Right there, when I end up hitting Joey [Wendle], I knew at that point he wanted to run. We let him do that, but I was kind of like ‘I got to get him out of there.’ In case something would happen, I’d be down to my last guy or I’d be using my last guy.”
Rojas was diagnosed with a jaw contusion. Mattingly replaced Rojas with Wendle at shortstop in the bottom of the seventh.
“That’s the one thing, you’re hoping he’s OK,” Corbin said. “It’s tough. You never, obviously, want something like that to happen. I believe that’s the first time that’s happened to me, and it kind of just shocked me a little bit to see that. But he gave me the thumbs up when I was walking off.”
Starting pitching, a solid bullpen and just enough offense has been the formula for success in April as the Marlins moved to 10-8, now 8-2 against the NL East.
“You have to be able to string together wins if you are going to go anywhere,” Mattingly said. “That shows hopefully that our club is getting ready to play every day. Today is a tough day because you get that early start after the night games. You have won a couple games. A lot of times, it’s tough to sweep a team, guys [have a] tendency to let down a little bit. It’s good that we came out there and [were] able to get a win here today.”