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Marlins power past shorthanded Nationals

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- The Marlins have been malfunctioning this season, but at least the electronics in their stadium are working fine.

That was proven Tuesday night, when the sculpture in center field at Marlins Park finally went off -- something it does only when the home team hits a homer.

The Marlins, who had not gone deep in their first seven home games, finally broke out, using Adeiny Hechavarria's three-run blast to key an 8-2 win over the Washington Nationals.

"I was beginning to think the home run sculpture wasn't plugged in," Marlins manager Mike Redmond joked. "But it's working.

"It was nice to beat those guys (Washington). They've kind of had their way with us."

The Nationals (8-6) were without star outfielder Bryce Harper and leadoff batter Denard Span, who both are battling the flu. Second baseman Danny Espinosa (sore wrist) was already out, which means the Nationals had only two hitters on their bench: catcher Jhonatan Solano and infielder Chad Tracy.

The Marlins, who started the day with the worst record in baseball, improved to 3-11. In fact, when they took a 4-0 lead in the fourth, it was just the fifth game in which they had had an advantage this season. The Marlins are 3-2 in those games.

Playing before an announced crowd of 16,200, the Marlins were led Tuesday by Justin Ruggiano and Hechavarria, who had three RBI each. Juan Pierre had three hits and two runs scored.

Hechavarria, who turned 24 on Monday, entered Tuesday with no RBI this season. He hit two homers in 41 games with Toronto last season, but this was his first long ball in the National League.

"I would have preferred (the home run) to come on my birthday," said Hechavarria, the native of Cuba said in Spanish.

Hechavarria hit a changeup, and he said it was a thrilling moment when he saw the ball clear the wall in left field.

"I felt the team's emotion in the dugout -- I felt happiness," Hechavarria said of his fourth-inning shot, which gave his team a 4-0 lead. "I hope this will be a key game for us to know that we are a team just like any other."

Dan Haren (1-2) took the loss. He entered the game with a 9.00 ERA, but the Marlins have been the team slumping pitchers love to face this season. After all, the Marlins had scored just 23 runs in their first 13 games.

But after sailing through three shutout innings, Haren gave up four runs in the fourth and three in the fifth. He left after one out in the fifth, and his ERA actually decreased to 8.10 -- a sign of how ineffective he has been this year.

The win went to Alex Sanabia (2-1), who allowed just two runs in six innings. He gave up consecutive run-scoring doubles to Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi in the sixth but was otherwise outstanding.

The Marlins' fourth-inning rally started with one out, when third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's throwing error put Placido Polanco on first. Polanco went to third on a single by Greg Dobbs and scored on a single to left by Justin Ruggiano.

After Rob Brantly grounded out, Hechavarria hit his homer to left, estimated at 416 feet.

Zimmerman said he felt responsible for the inning.

"Danny was rolling along, throwing the ball well," Zimmerman said. "I felt I threw the ball fine to first. I have to go out there tomorrow and work on my game."

The Marlins added to their advantage with a three-run fifth. Singles by Sanabia, Pierre and Polanco loaded the bases for Dobbs, who got an RBI with a walk. Ruggiano then stroked a two-run double down the third-base line to make it 7-0.

Despite the defeat, Zimmerman expressed confidence in his team.

"It's April 16," he said. "I sure hope nobody is panicking or worrying."

NOTES: Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (sore shoulder) took batting practice Tuesday, but his return date is still uncertain. Manager Mike Redmond hinted Stanton could be back for the team's next road trip, which begins Thursday in Cincinnati. ... Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond entered Tuesday with nine extra-base hits, which tied the Reds' Brandon Phillips and the A's Jed Lowrie for the major-league lead among middle infielders. Desmond had six doubles, one triple and two homers. ... The Marlins' odds to win the World Series are an astronomical 300-1, which is what happens when a team cuts its payroll from $118 million to $45 million. That $73 million cut is the biggest in major-league history. ... Entering play Tuesday, Polanco ranked second in the majors by putting 66.2 percent of his swings in play. The contact hitter had swung and missed just twice. Pierre ranked fifth at 58.2 percent. The Giants' Marco Scutaro led the majors at 70.3 percent, but even he had swung and missed one more time than Polanco. ... Entering Tuesday, the Nationals' Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos led all major-league catching groups with a .458 on-base percentage. ... Zimmerman has homered in a Jordan Zimmermann win six times.
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