WASHINGTON — Even as an emotionally draining week that began with the death of star pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident Sunday nears its end, the Miami Marlins aren’t ending their season quietly.
Christian Yelich homered and drove in two runs, Justin Bour added two RBIs and the Marlins’ bullpen pitched five shutout innings in a 7-4 victory over the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
“We’re just trying to finish up these last two games as strong as possible and just play as hard as we’re capable of every night and see what happens,” Yelich said. “It’s no secret it’s been a tough week around here and it’s not easy to go out and play right now. But it’s what we know and it kind of gives you a three-hour break from all this and you can be with the guys and focus on playing a baseball game.”
Mike Dunn (6-1) earned the victory in relief, while A.J. Ramos secured his 40th save in 43 opportunities with a scoreless ninth. Miami’s bullpen struck out 10 of the 16 batters it faced as the Marlins (79-80) kept alive their chances of finishing with a winning record with two games left on the schedule.
Sammy Solis (2-4) allowed a run in 1 1/3 innings for Washington.
In Miami’s first road game since Fernandez’s death, the right-hander’s No. 16 jersey hung in a locker at the entrance to the Marlins’ clubhouse. His number was also painted onto the mound in Washington, and a brief video montage was shown before to the game.
“Nice touch by the Nationals,” manager Don Mattingly said. “It seems like everyone has that feel for Jose. The way he carried himself and the fun that he had was really what you loved so much about him, that little kid, and that part is what seems like has taken hold on a lot of people around baseball and a lot of people around the country.”
The game began following a 1 hour, 43 minute rain delay. The series opener came a day after Fernandez’s memorial service in Florida.
The Marlins took a 4-0 lead, only for the Nationals to tie it with a four-run fourth. Miami went ahead in the sixth inning when Dee Gordon’s two-out infield single scored Bour. Yelich homered off reliever Sean Burnett in the seventh, and Marcell Ozuna added an RBI single in the ninth.
With the win, Miami has increased its victory total by eight over last year in Mattingly’s first season as manager, progress they’ll look to build on in 2017 without one of their franchise cornerstones.
“Obviously, Jose was a huge piece of what we were doing,” Mattingly said. “He’s your ace. He’s your guy. It’s not the time to think about it or talk about it, but it won’t be long (until) we’ll have to.”
The Arizona Diamondbacks occupied the visitor’s locker room before Miami arrived. When the Marlins arrived, they found a touching note on a dry erase board regarding the loss of Fernandez. “Dee Gordon had the most important HR of the year. Good luck fellas. Were (sic) praying for you. RIP. JF 16 — DBacks.”
YELICH POWERS UP
With his solo home run in the sixth inning, Yelich’s season homer total has surpassed his career numbers coming into 2016. Yelich entered the year with 20 home runs in 1,298 at-bats, and the 24-year-old has 21 homers in 571 at-bats this year.
Marlins: Mattingly said LHP Adam Conley, who came off the DL on Monday to throw three shutout innings, will be available the last two days of the season. Conley missed more than six weeks with a finger injury.
Marlins: LHP Wei-Yin Chen (5-4, 5.02) makes his final start of the season and will probably be on about a 75-pitch count, Mattingly said. Chen is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts against Washington this year.