Nationals 3, Marlins 1

BY foxsports • September 29, 2011

While Stephen Strasburg is just getting started, the Florida Marlins' first home is history.

The Washington ace allowed one hit and struck out 10 in six scoreless innings Wednesday to earn his first win since July 2010, and the Marlins bid their much-maligned stadium goodbye with a 3-1 loss.

Next year the Marlins move into a new ballpark with new manager Ozzie Guillen, who held his introductory news conference before the game. The Nationals also have a brighter future thanks to Strasburg (1-1), who threw a gem in his fifth start since returning from elbow surgery.

''It felt pretty good out there to go out and pound the strike zone like I know I can,'' Strasburg said.

The top pick in the 2009 draft gave up his first two walks this season but was otherwise dominant. He finished the season with 24 strikeouts in 24 innings and an ERA of 1.50.

''He's now one of the boys,'' manager Davey Johnson said. ''He's back.''

Having the right-hander for a full season should make a big difference for the Nationals, who finished 80-81, their sixth consecutive losing season. But they went 17-10 in September, in part because of Strasburg's return.

''This is a young group of guys,'' Strasburg said. ''Just being around the guys this past month, with the chemistry that we have, I feel like we're going to do a lot better things next year.''

Johnson agreed and said he would like to return as manager.

''I'm very attached to this ballclub,'' he said. ''I'm hopeful things will work out. I'd like that challenge.''

Florida wound up last in the NL East at 72-90.

Too much rain often meant too few fans at the Marlins' stadium, but on a sunny afternoon the atmosphere was far from funereal, with the lively crowd of 34,615 in a sentimental mood. Outgoing 80-year-old manager Jack McKeon received a long standing ovation before the game, then headed into his latest retirement with a record of 1,051-990.

''Thanks for the memories,'' McKeon said. ''I hate to see it end. It's emotional, no question. What got me were the fans. That was special.''

The crowd included more than 20 former Marlins honored after the game. Among the old-timers was Charlie Hough, who threw the first pitch in franchise history in 1993 and returned to the same mound to throw out the final ceremonial first pitch.

Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez, a catcher on the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship team, received a big ovation the first time he batted in the second inning.

Fans were on their feet again in the ninth inning.

''It was great to see the fans' support,'' losing pitcher Chris Volstad said. ''There have been a lot of memories for a lot of people. To be part of all that is very special.''

The final batter, Logan Morrison, was called out on strikes. Drew Storen completed a three-hitter with a perfect ninth for his 43rd save in 48 chances.

The entire Marlins team and owner Jeffrey Loria congregated in the left-field corner before the sixth inning to tear the last number off the 2-year-old sign counting down the games remaining in the stadium. Florida played 1,504 games there and went 781-723.

It was also the franchise's finale as the Florida Marlins. In conjunction with the move to a new ballpark near downtown, the team officially becomes the Miami Marlins on Nov. 11.

The unusual 4:10 starting time appeared to make it difficult for hitters to see the ball in the early innings as shadows crept across home plate. Volstad (5-13) allowed no hits in the first four innings. Strasburg gave up a single and two walks in the second, but a double play helped him escape.

The pace of the game made it clear players were heading into the offseason. In the fifth inning all five Nationals batters swung at the first pitch, including Ian Desmond, who hit a two-run single.

The relative brevity of the finale was a big change for the Nationals, who ended the season with a 14-inning win in 2010 and a 15-inning victory in 2009.

On this occasion, there wasn't even any rain, and that won't be a concern for the Marlins in the future. Their new ballpark has a retractable roof.

NOTES: The Nationals finished 23-40 in the stadium. ... The Marlins drew 1,520,562 fans at home to finish last in the NL in attendance for the seventh consecutive year. ... Florida's batting average of .247 was the lowest in team history. ... Marlins founding owner Wayne Huizenga drew boos when introduced after the game. Many fans have never forgiven him for dismantling the 1997 World Series champions in a payroll purge.

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