monday's late game

After delay, Nationals take off

The Marlins' Cameron Maybin fields a ball hit by the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman in a water-logged outfield Monday night.
The Marlins' Cameron Maybin fields a ball hit by the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman in a water-logged outfield Monday night. (Wilfredo Lee)
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. - The water was everywhere. As Jason Marquis threw his final warmup pitches in the Washington Nationals' bullpen Monday night, puddles covered the distance between the mound and home plate. As the Florida Marlins took the field, nine grounds crew members with squeegees stood in the outfield. Logan Morrison splashed and hydroplaned, Slip-'N-Slide style, into the left field wall in pursuit of the game's first out. It was a night for amphibious outfielders and extra pairs of dry socks.

For most of the 2 hours 49 minutes the Nationals waited to start their 9-3 victory over the Marlins, the torrential rain seemingly assured the game would be postponed. The Nationals made the delay worthwhile. Marquis earned his first win as a National, preventing him from losing eight straight and setting a new Nationals record. Behind Ryan Zimmerman's three-run, scoreboard-altering home run and Adam Dunn's four RBI, the Nationals matched their season-high, three-game winning streak on a most unusual night.

About 300 fans filled the expanse of empty seats at Sun Life Stadium at first pitch, which came at 9:59 p.m. Zimmerman scalded a single up the middle in the second inning, and it rolled through the wet grass and came to a stop before it reached center fielder Cameron Maybin. ("I mean, that's ridiculous," Dunn said.) Michael Morse trotted out to right field, leaping from patch to patch of dry land, and then jumped with two feet into a large puddle.

"I was thinking about how much water was going to be in my shoes," Morse said. "I've never seen a field like that."

The rare conditions came with a rare achievement for the Nationals. They won three straight for the sixth time this season, and Marquis won his first game since Sept. 8 of last season. He lasted 52/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and three walks.

"It's nice," Marquis said. "Get the monkey off the back a little bit."

Before the game, Marquis assumed the game would be postponed and he played cards to pass the time. He tried to be ready just in case, and it turned out he would pitch.

Marquis entered intent on validating his previous two starts and further separating himself from his early-season disasters. Before Monday night, Marquis had allowed two earned runs in 121/3 innings, including his best start of the season, when he shut out the Chicago Cubs for seven innings before yielding one run.

Marquis couldn't match his best start of the season, but he pitched long enough and just effectively enough to enter the win column. He allowed his three runs on two homers, a solo shot by Hanley Ramirez in the first and a two-run rocket by Brett Hayes in the sixth that ended his night. He was not at his best - "It was a grind," he said - but Marquis still fought his way to a win, which to him was the best sign of all.

"I feel like I've thrown the ball the way I should," Marquis said. "It helps a lot more mentally when you know there's nothing physically wrong with you. You may have to battle, but you're not battling pain. You're just focusing on making pitches.

Marquis could thank another home run for his victory. In the third, Zimmerman came to the plate with Alberto Gonzalez and Roger Bernadina on base, having already singled and scored a run on Dunn's double in the second. Zimmerman smashed a change-up off the scoreboard on the facing of the third deck, high above the wall in left, a blast that broke off a chunk of lights. The scoreboard read "Sun Life Stadiu" for the rest of the night.

"That's probably about as good as I've seen him hit a ball," Manager Jim Riggleman said.

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