WASHINGTON (AP)—For young and old, winning is getting contagious for the Florida Marlins, whether it’s 25-year-old Ricky Nolasco making his best start of the year or 40-year-old Luis Gonzalez clearing the bases to surpass 1,400 RBIs.
Nolasco broke a personal three-game losing streak with six strong innings, and Gonzalez blew the game open with a three-run double in the sixth Friday night as the Marlins ran their winning streak to a season-best five games with a 7-3 victory over the Washington Nationals.
“It’s starting to rub off on everybody now,” said Nolasco (2-3), who had won only two of his previous 15 starts and began the season in the bullpen. “I know what that feeling’s like, just like what we had in ’06. As long as we can just keep feeding off each other, we can go out there and pitch a different game.”
Florida (21-14) is seven games over .500 for the first time since September 2005, and Gonzalez is enjoying the ride as much as anybody. He is hitting .388 in his last 10 games, and his double was the 574th of his career, tying Charlie Gehringer for 18th on the career list. It also gave him 1,401 RBIs.
“I know what my role is, when Hammer (Josh Willingham) gets healthy again I’ll go back to being a bench player,” Gonzalez said. “For me, the most important thing is hopefully I can show these guys that I can still play if I have to.”
The Marlins took a 3-1 lead into the sixth and came away with four runs, taking advantage of a sudden spate of wildness from Nationals starter Tim Redding (4-3). Redding walked three of the last six batters he faced, including Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla to load the bases.
Washington manager Manny Acta then called on reliever Jesus Colome, who had allowed four of seven inherited runners to score this season. Make it seven out of 10: He threw a fastball up in the strike zone to Gonzalez, who drove it into the right-field corner.
“I don’t know what’s happening right now,” Colome said. “Right now, I’m walking too many. The last couple of times in the game, I’m missing with fastballs. I’m missing my spots.”
The Nationals have lost three of four and are 1-6 against the Marlins this season. They got a subpar performance from Redding, who has been their most consistent pitcher this season.
Redding walked a season-high four over 5 1-3 innings. He gave up only four hits and struck out three but was charged with five earned runs.
“He didn’t attack the strike zone like he usually does,” Acta said. “The walks really hurt him. Those walks in the sixth inning really hurt him.”
Nolasco allowed one run, four hits and walked two. He also struck out a season-high six. His only trouble came with two outs in the fourth, when Nick Johnson and Lastings Milledge singled and Austin Kearns walked. Nolasco then walked Wily Mo Pena with the bases loaded but got out of the inning when Wil Nieves grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Cody Ross singled to open the game, stole second and advanced to third when catcher Nieves’ throw ended up in center field. He scored on Ramirez’s sacrifice fly to give the Marlins a 1-0 lead.
Down 7-1, the Nationals picked up two runs in the seventh on RBI hits by Cristian Guzman and Johnson off Doug Waechter, but Justin Miller entered and got Kearns to fly to shallow center with the bases loaded and two out.
The 35-game start is the best in Marlins franchise history, one game better than the 20-15 starts in 2002, 2004 and 2005. … Nationals LHP Matt Chico made his first relief appearance in the major leagues, pitching two scoreless innings. He made 31 starts last year and struggled through seven starts this season before being sent to the bullpen. … Marlins 1B Mike Jacobs missed his second straight game with a strained left quad muscle. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Jacobs could have been used as a pinch hitter if needed. … Washington’s Elijah Dukes, returning from the disabled list after injuring his hamstring on opening day, entered the game in the seventh inning and struck out in both of his plate appearances.