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NATIONALS: Rick Ankiel Is Offense, Defense In 2-0 Victory Over Marlins
WASHINGTON – A lingering quadriceps injury cost Rick Ankiel a good portion of spring training as well as the first eight games of the season. He demonstrated that’s all in the past for the Washington Nationals on Friday.
The center fielder had a solo home run and made a lengthy run to snare a long fly ball late to preserve a 2-0 victory for Washington in the opener of their three-game series against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park.
Ankiel finished 3-for-3 for the Nationals (11-4), including an eighth-inning double where he barely beat the tag at second base, and scored two runs. Even the threat of a play at the plate stopped Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton from attempting to score from third on a fly ball in the second.
“He was basically our offense … and our defense,” manager Davey Johnson said, pausing. “That was the game.”
Ross Detwiler also pitched six strong innings for the Nationals, who erased memories of their 11-4 thrashing by Houston on Thursday with a quick and tidy mopping of the Marlins (7-7).
Detwiler, in his third start, allowed only three hits and struck out seven to tie a career high, and Johnson admitted to some hesitation in taking the ball from the left-hander when he had, in the manager’s mind, another inning left.
“I felt good, but it goes back to Davey protecting us, and he knew I didn’t have a spring as a starter, so it’s good,” said Detwiler, who earned the win to improve to 2-0 and lower his ERA to a miniscule 0.56. “He’s protecting us, and look at how our bullpen’s done, so it’s easy to go to them.”
Craig Stammen, Tyler Clippard and Henry Rodriguez followed Detwiler from the bullpen, with Rodriguez navigating a troublesome ninth inning to earn his fourth save of the season. The hard-throwing righty walked two batters and threw a wild pitch, but he finished the game with 100-mph fastballs on seven of his final eight pitches – including two that hit 101 mph – to end the game with two men on.
Victor Zambrano (0-1) went seven innings for Miami, allowing only two hits – Ankiel’s home run and his single – while striking out six.
The home run, a shot by Ankiel just a shade right of straightaway center field, cleared the fence near the 402-foot mark and even sailed over an ambulance parked behind it.
Earlier, he caught a fly ball from catcher John Buck with Stanton on third and Austin Kearns on second that took one bounce in front of home plate and made Stanton think twice.
And later, he tracked a fly ball from pinch hitter Chris Coghlin in the eighth all the way to the warning track in front of the Marlins’ bullpen, grabbing it with a heave of his left hand despite not originally reading it correctly.
But the most heads-up play of the evening came on his eighth-inning double, where, after lining a changeup from sidearming righty Steve Cishek to right field, he turned the corner at first base and headed or second.
Stanton, who like Ankiel has one of the stronger arms in the outfield in the National League, gunned a throw to second to try to get the runner. But Ankiel slid in headfirst and managed to get a hand under the sweeping tag by Jose Reyes, drawing a brief protest from Miami manager Ozzie Guillen when Ankiel was called safe.
“A lot of times, when the ball beats you, you know, you’re just automatically called out,” Ankiel said. “But I was the right call and I’m glad [second base umpire Phil Cuzzi] hung in there.”
Cishek then intentionally walked Chad Tracy, pinch hitting for Clippard, to get to Ian Desmond. The shortstop, who entered the game fifth in the National League in hits with a .300 batting average, promptly plated Ankiel with a single deep in the hole to shortstop with which Reyes couldn’t make a play.
Ankiel entered the game with four hits and a .211 batting average since coming off the disabled list on April 14. He was much more productive on Friday.
“It was outstanding,” Johnson said. “It was a great game. An outstanding game. He won it for us.”
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