Marlins rally in ninth to secure four-game sweep vs Nationals. Takeaways from the series

Tribune Content Agency

WASHINGTON — The Miami Marlins scored two runs in the ninth inning to beat the Washington Nationals 6-4 on Sunday and secure a four-game sweep at Nationals Park.

The Marlins (70-67) won the first three games of the series 6-1 on Thursday, 8-5 in 11 innings on Friday and 11-5 on Saturday.

With the game tied 4-4 after eight innings, the Marlins got runners on first and second with one out in the ninth against Nationals reliever Kyle Finnegan on singles from Luis Arraez and Jake Burger. Jazz Chisholm Jr. then hit a groundball that resulted in a forceout at second base but Washington shortstop CJ Abrams’ throw to first base for a potential double play was off target. Arraez scored the go-ahead run on the throwing error. Chisholm then stole second and scored on a Bryan De La Cruz bloop single to give Miami an insurance run.

Tanner Scott tossed a scoreless ninth inning for the save to back an eight-inning performance from Sandy Alcantara.

Miami scored its first three runs in the first inning on an Arraez home run and back-to-back bases-loaded walks from Jesus Sanchez and Jon Berti and tied the game at 4-4 in the sixth on a Nationals fielding error.

The four-game win streak is Miami’s longest since the All-Star Break.

And the series sweep did wonders to keep Miami’s playoff hopes alive. With the win Sunday,the Marlins found themselves tied with the Cincinnati Reds at just a half-game behind the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks for the National League’s third and final wild card spot through Sunday’s afternoon games.

Here are four takeaways from the four-game series.

Sandy Alcantara pitches deep

Alcantara kept his pitch count down and maneuvered through one rough inning to pitch eight innings on Sunday, holding the Nationals to four runs (two earned runs) despite scattering nine hits and issuing a pair of walks.

Lane Thomas hit a solo home run in the first inning and Washington tagged Alcantara for three runs in the fifth on an Alcantara throwing error, a Dominic Smith RBI double and RBI singles from Jacob Young and Thomas.

But Alcantara minimized the damage by getting three double plays from his infield. He threw no more than 20 pitches in any inning and had five in which he needed 12 or less to get three outs — including each of his final three innings after the three-run fifth.

Sunday marked the sixth time this season Alcantara has pitched at least eight innings in a game.

Luis Arraez heating up

Before the series against Washington (62-76) began, one had to go back to Aug. 13 for Arraez’s last multi-hit game. Opponents had held the Marlins’ All-Star second baseman to no more than one hit per game over 14 consecutive starts, dropping his batting average nearly 20 points in the process.

In four games against the Nationals, Arraez hit 10 for 18 (.556) with one home run, one double, three RBI and six runs scored. He had multiple hits all four games of the series, the first time he had a stretch of at least four consecutive multi-hit outings since he had five from June 3-7.

His MLB-leading batting average on the season is at .356 with 25 games left to play.

Slugging without Soler

The Marlins hit eight home runs and 14 total extra-base hits over the four-game series against the Nationals.

And all of it came without All-Star designated hitter Jorge Soler playing in a single game.

Soler, who leads Miami in home runs (35), RBI (71) and runs scored (70), has not played since leaving Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays with right hip tightness. Marlins manager Skip Schumaker has said Soler has been available off the bench but has not been used.

Even in his absence, Miami had home runs from Burger (three), Chisholm, Garrett Hampson, De La Cruz, Sanchez and Arraez in their series at Nationals Park. Those eight home runs accounted for 15 of the Marlins’ 31 runs over the past four games.

Another rough patch of schedule ahead

After an off day Monday, the Marlins will play 16 games in 16 days without a day off.

The first 13 of those games are against teams currently in the playoff field: Three at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers, three on the road against the Philadelphia Phillies, four on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers and three at home against the Atlanta Braves.

Miami needs to figure out a way to stay afloat during this stretch before it closes out the season with nine of 12 games against teams out of postseason contention (six against the New York Mets and three against the Pittsburgh Pirates with another three against the Brewers in there as well).