Marquis Tames The Padres

The Washington Nationals showed that they can win tough one-run games on Friday — with Jason Marquis providing an epic one man stand in the 6th inning to lift the Nationals to a 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres. The pitching heroics took place after a double, a single and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Marquis then walked in a run.

But just as the Nationals were expected to collapse, Marquis showed what a veteran pitcher can do, striking out uber phenom Anthony Rizzo and inducing veteran Jorge Cantu to ground out. The tough sixth inning proved enough to lift the Nationals, as Tyler Clippard came in to throw two get-em-out innings and Drew Storen provided the save. The victory was badly needed — giving the Nationals a possibility of splitting (or winning) the series.

The drama of the San Diego sixth was highlighted by the recent collapse of the Nationals’ middle relievers. It wasn’t clear, with the bases loaded, whether Jim Riggleman would remove Marquis (a similar situation in Baltimore led to an abrasive semi-confrontation between the two) or — because of the bullpen’s problems — let him stay in. Riggleman went with his veteran and Marquis responded.

After the game, Riggleman downplayed the decision: “He was really sharp and got tested in the sixth inning,” he said. “That was tough. Baserunners all over the place. [He threw] a lot of pitches. It was a very stressful inning that he was going through. To come out of that with one run, that’s good veteran pitching right there.” The Nationals offense (held to just four hits) was sparked by a Michael Morse two runner homer into the second deck at Petco Park in the second inning.

Where Have You Gone, Ryan Zimmerman — Nats Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You: The All Star, Gold Glove third baseman is in Syracuse, finishing up his rehab. He’s hitting well, and apparently the abdomal problem he had that put him on the D.L. is now a thing of the past. The Nationals need his bat, and desperately . . . Zimmerman will play two days in Syracuse and (should things go as expected), take the day off Monday before being put back on the squad on Tuesday, just in time for the opening of a home series against the St. Louis Cardinals . . .

Speaking of Which: Tony LaRussa celebrated his 5000th game as a major league manager last night, second in baseball history behind White Elephants’ legend Connie Mack (“The Tall Tactician“). LaRussa stands third now in total wins — they’re already lining up at Cooperstown to vote for him. And LaRussa has the Cardinals playing — they recently swept the Cubs (well, no surprise there, actually) and they lead the N.L. Central by 1.5 games over the surging, pitching-heavy Brewers. The Brewers have their eyes on the Cardinals, and they took them apart last night in Milwaukee, 8-0.

This is a typical Cardinals’ season: they’re not supposed to be where they are (their best pitcher is have his arm reattached) and they filled their off-season holes by signing guys like no-wheels Lance Berkman who, as soon as he put on a Cardinals uniform, started playing like Jumpin’ Joe. The Redbirds are scary good, and actually play better on the road than at home. Some of this is certainly attributable to LaRussa, who’s won four Manager of the Year Awards. LaRussa will be accompanied (of course) by the best player in baseball, whose name keeps being linked by baseball gurus with the Washington franchise. Koo-koo-kee-choo . . .

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