Nats win battle of 'pens, finish sweep
Both starters leave early as Pena gets winning RBI in seventh
WASHINGTON -- The casual onlooker can be forgiven for thinking the Columbus Clippers defeated the Albuquerque Isotopes on Wednesday.
Early exits by the game's starting pitchers paved the way for the Nationals and Marlins to give several innings to their Minor League callups. When the dust had settled, the Nationals won 6-4 to sweep the Marlins during the three-game series.
A combined 14 pitchers took the mound, wearing it out enough that Marlins pitcher Justin Miller asked for the grounds crew to apply a new coating of dirt before taking the hill in the eighth.
On the Nationals side, starter Tim Redding left the game with an elbow injury in the third, bringing in Jonathan Albaladejo to make his Major League debut. The right-hander showed no fear, opening with a slider that dropped into the strike zone.
"He's going to be a fun guy to catch," catcher Brian Schneider said. "I didn't know how he was going to throw, but we mixed some sinkers and sliders in."
Albaladejo languished in the Pittsburgh Minor League system for six years before being picked up by Washington as a free agent. After a dominating 3-0, 1.13 ERA performance at Triple-A Columbus, he was brought up to the Nationals for September.
Manager Manny Acta praised his toughness. Albaladejo came into the game with two runners on, and worked his way out of the jam. He then came out in the fourth and struck out the side.
"It's always tough when a team has never seen a guy, and he comes in with good stuff," Acta said. "He did a very good job putting damage control on that inning."
On the Marlins side, starting pitcher Sergio Mitre exited the game not because of injury, but because of a poor performance. After loading the bases in the first inning, Mitre then gave up a single and walked in two runs. After throwing two balls to Redding, he was removed from the game.
The Nationals ended up with three runs in the inning, the final one scored on a walk by Robert Fick after he worked the count to 3-2.
"We got some good at-bats from both Schneider and Fick," right fielder Austin Kearns said. "There were some big at-bats throughout the game from those guys."
After pulling Mitre, the Marlins went with rookie pitcher Daniel Barone, who was recently called up from Triple-A Albuquerque. But the door to the bullpen never stayed closed for long. The team brought in seven pitchers, and no Nationals batter faced the same pitcher twice.
"These games are kind of tough for both teams," Schneider said. "You've got guys coming in and out, and it's a new guy every time."
The debuts weren't limited to the pitchers. Outfielder Justin Maxwell, who is from the Washington area, made an appearance as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fourth. His flyout to right field was about 15 feet short of a home run, but earned him a standing ovation from the crowd of 19,222 at RFK Stadium.
Washington picked up a scoreless inning from Winston Abreu in the fifth, and Kearns then added a solo home run in the bottom of the inning. The Marlins countered with a two-run home run from Miguel Olivio to tie the game in the sixth.
After the Nats tagged rookie reliever Matt Lindstrom for two runs in the bottom of the seventh, the parade of newcomers ended. Acta brought out relievers Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero, with each recording three strikeouts in an inning of work.
Acta emphasized that the overflowing lineup card wasn't an indication that the game was taken lightly. The win pushed the Nats to three games ahead of the Marlins for fourth place in the National League East.
"I don't think we've taken the Marlins lightly, because that's what we're playing for," Acta said. "We're just trying to stay ahead of them the rest of the way."
They did it on Wednesday by outmaneuvering the Marlins in a game that saw 37 players take the field. Kearns credited the pitchers for coming into a tight game and showing the poise necessary to pick up the victory.
"Those guys came in and shut the door," Kearns said. "We needed them to give us some innings with Redding out, and it was definitely a good thing."
Michael Phillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.