Nats clinch NL home-field edge, split with Marlins
WASHINGTON (AP) For the second time in three seasons, the Washington Nationals will head to the postseason with the top seeding in the National League.
They hope they can take advantage of that status this year.
The NL East champion Nationals locked up home-field advantage until the World Series by beating the Miami Marlins 4-0 on Doug Fister's three-hitter in the opener of a day-night doubleheader Friday.
Miami earned a split by winning the insignificant second game 15-7 with 22 hits, including Kike Hernandez's grand slam and J.T. Realmuto's three-run triple. The Marlins hadn't scored at least that many runs since a 16-10 victory over the Nationals on Sept. 1, 2010, according to STATS.
Washington's record was 94-66 at the end of a long day; the last pitch was thrown 9 hours, 35 minutes after the first.
''It's important to have home-field advantage. If we want to get to where we want to get to, then that's important. So that's accomplished,'' rookie manager Matt Williams said.
Only two regular members of Washington's lineup, right fielder Jayson Werth and catcher Wilson Ramos, started Friday's second game; both sat out the opener. Werth tripled in the first inning, doubled in the second and singled in the fifth, and the right fielder also threw out Donovan Solano trying to stretch a single into a double. A homer shy of the cycle, Werth was hit by a pitch in the sixth and struck out in the ninth.
Was he thinking about needing that homer in his final at-bat?
''I surely was. ... From T-ball on, I don't think I've ever hit for the cycle,'' Werth said. ''I knew it was available. Especially in a blowout game, definitely wasn't trying to work a walk or anything like that.''
Taylor Hill (0-1) took the loss in his first major league start, allowing seven runs and 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings, but he also singled for what he said was not only his first hit in the majors but also his ''first hit ever in professional baseball.''
''Believe it or not,'' Hill said, ''I had no hits prior in the minor leagues.''
A.J. Ramos (7-0) earned the win with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Earlier, Solano was the only player who got a hit off Fister (16-6) - a pair of harmless singles in the first and fourth innings, and a triple with two outs in the ninth. The next batter, Casey McGehee, lined out to diving second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera to end that game.
Fister threw 104 pitches, 77 for strikes, and heard a loud ovation when he jogged from the dugout to the mound for the ninth.
''Obviously some adrenaline, some emotions run through there,'' the lanky righty said. ''It's one of those things where you kind of take a second and you soak it in and then you get back to work.''
Washington's Anthony Rendon hit a solo shot to left off wild-as-can-be Jarred Cosart (4-4 with the Marlins; 13-11 overall in 2014, including his time with the Astros) in the first for his 21st homer. Cosart walked eight.
Fister had zero walks and nine strikeouts in the second shutout of his career.
What really mattered, though, was sewing up the home-field edge.
''That was a big milestone for us,'' Fister said. ''It's always nice to be home. You've got your home fans, we've got our own lockers, our own chairs, whatever it may be. Guys are comfortable here. And that means a lot.''
Then again, Washington knows full well being the highest-seeded club guarantees nothing. The Nationals led the majors with 98 wins in 2012, but were eliminated in the NL division series by wild-card St. Louis.
This year they clinched their division title Sept. 16 and have gone 7-3 since then in the push for the NL's top record.
''They have everything they need over there to win a World Series,'' Cosart said.
At 77-83, the Marlins could finish anywhere from second to fourth in the NL East, but they know they won't finish last.
Nationals: CF Denard Span returned to action for the first time since leaving Tuesday's game after a diving, tumbling catch that left his right knee scraped and sore. Span started Friday's first game, going 1 for 4 with a walk. Afterward, he said he felt rusty but fine. ... Zimmerman started the opener, playing left field for the second day in a row. He struck out as a pinch hitter in the second game.
Williams said the Nationals will stick to their planned starting pitchers this weekend, including RHP Stephen Strasburg (13-11, 3.23 ERA) for a final pre-playoffs tuneup Saturday against Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldo (6-13, 4.44).