WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Nationals savored their latest victory a bit more than most, mainly because it was a complete performance quite literally from beginning to end.
Max Scherzer did his part as the starting pitcher, and newcomers Brandon Kintzler and Sean Doolittle finished up . Bryce Harper and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Adam Lind also played major roles in a 3-2 victory over the Miami Marlins on Monday night.
In his first appearance since an injury-abbreviated start six days earlier, Scherzer struck out nine and gave up two runs over seven innings. In his previous outing, the right-hander was pulled after one inning with neck spasms.
“It wasn’t bothering me today. It was just weak,” Scherzer said. “It’s not a big deal.”
Scherzer allowed only five hits, two of which really mattered: Giancarlo Stanton’s major league-leading 37th home run and an RBI single by pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne, who stepped to the plate with a .036 lifetime batting average.
“He was pretty sharp and his endurance was good,” manager Dusty Baker said of Scherzer. “He gave us all he had.”
Harper homered in the fourth inning and Lind singled in the tiebreaking run in the eighth to help the Nationals expand their lead in the NL East over second-place Miami to 14 games.
Wilmer Difo led off the eighth with a single off Jarlin Garcia (0-2). He reached second on a bunt and, with two outs, Lind delivered a single up the middle.
It was Lind’s 13th pinch hit of the season, and his 10th RBI in that role.
“Lind came through with a big hit and then the bullpen came in and shut the door,” Scherzer said. “I love those starts.”
Brandon Kintzler (4-2) worked the eighth and Sean Doolittle got three outs to earn his sixth save. Both pitchers were acquired shortly before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Stanton matched his career best for homers, accomplished previously in 2012 and 2014.
“If he’s on the field and stays on the field, he’s going to hit 40 to 50 every year,” manager Don Mattingly said.
In a strange twist, Marlins starter Chris O’Grady was forced from the game with a right oblique strain after facing only five batters.
“Right now it’s just day to day. I don’t know what’s going on yet,” O’Grady said. “Hopefully it’s just a cramp.”
O’Grady walked Ryan Zimmerman in the second inning and was replaced by Despaigne, who subsequently gave up an RBI single to Matt Wieters.
Harper led off the fourth with his 29th home run, a drive deep into the right-field seats. He hit 24 all last season.
Miami got a run back in the fifth when Tomas Telis doubled and scored on a two-out single by Despaigne, who was 2 for 56 with no RBIs in his six-year career.
Stanton tied it in the sixth with his 17th home run at Nationals Park, most by any visiting player.
The Nationals activated left-hander Gio Gonzalez from the paternity list and optioned right-hander Erick Fedde to Triple-A Syracuse. Gonzalez’s wife gave birth to a boy.
Baker became emotional when asked to recall his relationship with former player and manager Don Baylor, who died Monday.
Baker broke into the big leagues with the Braves and Baylor debuted in Baltimore.
“I was supposed to be the next Hank Aaron and he was the next Frank Robinson,” Baker recalled.
Marlins: RHP Kyle Barraclough (right shoulder impingement) had a 35-pitch bullpen session Monday and will pitch live batting practice Thursday. … LHP Wei-Yin Chen (left arm fatigue) is scheduled to pitch live batting practice on August 9. … LHP JT Riddle (left shoulder tendinitis) is scheduled for surgery on Friday.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (elbow) threw a bullpen session Sunday and “is continuing to progress,” Baker said. … OF Jayson Werth (foot) is hitting but still can’t run. … OF Michael Taylor (oblique) is at least a week away from returning. “I told Michael that I’d rather have him over-ready than under-ready,” Baker said.
Marlins: Vance Worley (1-2, 5.31 ERA) starts Tuesday against the Nationals, whom he held scoreless over seven innings in his last outing Wednesday.
Nationals: A.J. Cole (1-1, 4.91 ERA) makes his third start of the season and second in a row against Miami.
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