MIAMI -- Are they buyers? Are they sellers?
Are the Miami Marlins ready and able to make a statement that they will be a factor in the playoff race?
With the trade deadline looming Thursday, that is what this three-game series against the first-place Nationals is about, a chance to show that right now matters.
The mission got off to a rousing start Monday as the Marlins rallied from a three-run deficit in the ninth inning for an improbable 7-6 victory on Jeff Baker's single off the fence in left field off Jerry Blevins.
The last time Marlins trailed by three or more runs in the ninth inning or later and won was April 18, 2009 at Washington. In that game, they trailed 6-3 in ninth and won 9-6 in 11 innings.
The Marlins started the comeback against Nationals closer Rafael Soriano, with Adeiny Hechavarria tying it with a triple to right-center on the 11th pitch of an epic at-bat. Marcell Ozuna (single) and Jerrod Saltalamacchia (sacrifice fly) drove in the other runs in the stunning ninth.
The Marlins trailed 6-0 after six before chipping away at Washington's lead in the late innings.
Coming off the best seven-game trip (6-1) a Marlins team has ever had, this week can be as meaningful as any the Marlins have played in three seasons at Marlins Park. Or it can go the way of the 2012 team, which was two games under .500 in mid-July before a skid of eight losses in nine games sparked the infamous trade-off of veteran players.
"We're capable of anything. It's up to us to do it on the field," first baseman Garrett Jones said before the game. "If we show we're winning on the field and playing good baseball, I think they're going to let us keep playing and do our thing. It's just up to us to continue that."
The key reason the Marlins began the series having won seven of eight was strong starting pitching. Marlins pitchers had a 2.50 ERA since July 20 while holding opponents to a .212 average.
Nathan Eovaldi was the anomaly, going 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA in his first four July starts.
"He's given up that one big inning, it seems like. In Atlanta he had that one inning 1/8four runs in the second,3/8 but then after that he settled in and cruised," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said before the game. "That's the key for him, to eliminate those big numbers, those big innings."
This time Eovaldi's undoing came in the Nationals' five-run sixth, after he limited them to a run on three singles through five.
Denard Span opened the sixth with a bunt single on a strange play. Casey McGehee's throw was into the runner, and as Span crossed the bag he dislodged Jones' glove along with the ball.
Back-to-back singles by Anthony Rendon and Jason Werth made it 2-0, and a walk to Ian Desmond ended Eovaldi's night. Dan Jennings came on and got Bryce Harper to hit a potential inning-ending bouncer to shortstop. Hechavarria speared the hard chopper, but lost control as he tried to flip to second.
The error allowed another run to score and opened the floodgates. Jennings walked in another run and served a two-run single to Danny Espinosa that pushed the Nationals' lead to 6-0 and closed the book on another perplexing night for Eovaldi (five runs, six hits), who has not won since June 23.
Meanwhile, Marlins hitters mustered little against Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, who they had treated rudely in two of three previous meetings this season.
Zimmermann had some recent trouble with a biceps strain, but Monday he looked like the dominant pitcher who in June had a 1.43 ERA in 44 innings, limiting Miami to two runs and four hits in seven innings.
Miami got a break in the seventh when Werth misplayed Jones' sinking liner to right into a run-scoring triple. Marcell Ozuna drove in Jones with a single to left. But second baseman Espinosa threw out Saltalamacchia from shallow right field to end the threat.
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