Washington, DC – Bryce Harper hammered a three-run homer in the first inning to account for all of Washington's offense, and the Nationals held on for a 3-2 victory over the Miami Marlins on Thursday in the opener of a four-game set at Nationals Park.
Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each finished with three hits, while Gio Gonzalez (11-7), celebrating his 28th birthday, gave the Nats six strong innings. He yielded two runs on seven hits and two walks to pick up the win and help Washington move within five games of the idle Cincinnati Reds for the final NL wild card spot.
"I like being in those pressure situations, those crucial situations, playing for the Wild Card," Harper said. "All year long, you try to play for the playoffs and try to go to that next round."
Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard each spun a scoreless inning in relief before Rafael Soriano worked around a pair of walks in the ninth to secure his 42nd save of the season.
Washington center fielder Denard Span went 0-for-4 to have his 29-game hit streak snapped, falling one shy of the Nationals' franchise record set by Zimmerman from Apr. 8-May 12, 2009.
Ed Lucas collected three hits and an RBI for the Marlins, who have lost five of their last six games.
Henderson Alvarez (4-5) pitched effectively after Harper's homer, but was charged with three runs on seven hits over five-plus frames to absorb the loss.
"That ended up being the game. Three-run home run, that was it," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "Unfortunately for us, we've had that scenario happen several times."
Miami got to Gonzalez in the first when Donovan Solano led off with a double and scored on Lucas' single to center, but Harper belted a three-run blast in the home half to put the Nats on top.
Zimmerman smacked a one-out single and Jayson Werth walked before Harper stroked a 2-2 slider into the seats in right-center field to make it 3-1.
Miami trimmed the margin in half in the sixth, as Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Ruggiano opened the frame with back-to-back doubles to bring the Marlins within 3-2.
However, Gonzalez evaded further damage by lining out Placido Polanco, picking off Ruggiano and flying out Adeiny Hechavarria to keep his team in front.
The Marlins put runners on the corners with two outs in the seventh against Storen, but the right-hander got Christian Yelich to fly out weakly to left to end the inning.
After Clippard kept the Marlins off the board in the eighth, Miami moved the tying run into scoring position in the ninth when Logan Morrison worked a walk with one out before Lucas earned a two-out free pass.
However, Soriano struck out Yelich on three pitches to end the game.
Lucas recorded his fifth straight multi-hit game ... Washington has won seven of the last eight meetings with Miami ... Gonzalez has won four of his last five starts ... Miami finished 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.