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Games of the Decade: September 1, 2010

Gaby Sánchez clotheslines Nyjer Morgan and all the key events that preceded it.

Washington Nationals v Florida Marlins Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

Nothing compares with the rush of tuning in to live Marlins games. But as you are all aware, unfortunate circumstances have delayed the start of the 2020 regular season. Need help filling that void? Fish Stripes will be presenting full-length FOX Sports Florida broadcasts from the 2010-2019 Marlins seasons.

The “Games of the Decade” series is a collaborative process between the Fish Stripes staff and audience. Please continue recommending games that deserve to be rewatched!


Nationals 10, Marlins 16—September 1, 2010

Starting Lineups

On paper, this was not a compelling matchup. The Nationals, entering September at 57-76, were buried in the NL East cellar. Face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman wasn’t even in the lineup. Although far more competitive at 66-65, the Fish were 7 12 games back of the NL Wild Card with five teams ahead of them. Several key bats had regressed from the previous season and they were leaning heavily on inexperienced players. Plus with rosters expanding, there were bound to be more substitutions than normal, slowing down the pace.

Despite all those deterrents, 18,045 fans—if you believe the Marlins’ announced attendance total—were treated to a memorable game.

Context matters here. The night before, these NL East rivals played into extra innings, knotted up at 0-0. Bolting down the third-base line in the top of the 10th representing the go-ahead run, Nats center fielder Nyjer Morgan bulldozed Marlins catcher Brett Hayes.

Legal but excessive contact. Hayes was diagnosed with a separated left shoulder. The Marlins walked it off in the bottom of the 10th.

Morgan, evidently, felt no ill effects from the collision because he was leading off against Chris Volstad the next day. It was an unremarkable plate appearance, with the charismatic speedster working the count full before striking out swinging. However, the visitors took an early 1-0 lead on a Mike Morse single.

Ex-Marlin Scott Olsen took that lead into the bottom of the first inning. He kept it intact for only nine pitches. Thanks to extra-base hits by Hanley Ramírez, Wes Helms and Brad Davis, the Marlins put up a five-spot. Everybody in the lineup went to the plate, including Volstad.

When the Nats crept closer in the second inning—trimming the deficit to 5-3—Olsen again allowed a crooked number. Overall, he faced 15 batters on the night and 10 of them reached base safely. His lone strikeout victim? The opposing pitcher.

The Marlins firmly seized control when Craig Stammen entered in relief. Rookie Mike Stanton launched a lousy breaking ball deep to left field. That made it 10-3 and snapped his 58-plate appearance homerless drought. By the end of the third inning, it was 14-3—the Fish had already tied their season-high in runs scored!

Anybody who left Sun Life Stadium or changed the television channel at that point would deeply regret it, because Volstad plunked Morgan with a fastball on the very first pitch of the fourth. Who “ordered” the HBP? We may never know for sure, though the catcher Davis seemed to be expecting it. Look how he is set up so far inside that he doesn’t need to move his feet when reaching for the ball.

Morgan plays it cool initially, tossing his bat to the dugout and taking his base. But he was inexplicably aggressive during Ian Desmond’s plate appearance, stealing second, stealing third and then scoring on a pop-up to Donnie Murphy in shallow center field (all of that over the course of four pitches). Murphy landed awkwardly on his right wrist and couldn’t make the throw home; Desmond was credited with a sacrifice fly.

Next time up in the top of the sixth, the boisterous crowd let Morgan know exactly how they felt. So did Volstad by chucking a fastball behind Morgan’s back, which earned him an ejection from home plate umpire Marvin Hudson. Davis chased after the ball while everybody else got a head start on the chaos.

Benches emptied, bullpens emptied and for the next eight minutes, the Nationals and Marlins shoved and cussed at each other. It was an ugly scene with only one true winner: rookie first baseman Gaby Sánchez.

Volstad and Morgan got ejected; Sánchez, miraculously, did not.

Burke Badenhop took over on the mound. He hadn’t been warming up in the ‘pen and it showed as the Nats immediately tallied three hits and a sacrifice fly. The easy, blowout win was in doubt for a moment, but Badenhop induced a ground ball double play to stop the bleeding.

Final score: Marlins 16, Nationals 10.

Full FOX Sports Florida game broadcast (with Rich Waltz, Tommy Hutton and Allison Williams)

TL;DW (Too Long; Didn’t Watch)

Win Probability chart
FanGraphs
  • Two years later, home plate collisions like Morgan’s were outlawed by Major League Baseball.
  • During his fifth-inning visit to the broadcast booth, listen to Marlins president David Samson hype up the new ballpark with 3D visuals:

  • What a bummer for Donnie Murphy. He would miss the remainder of the 2010 season due to that wrist injury, finishing with a brilliant .318/.348/.705 slash line. Murphy owns the all-time MLB record for most runs batted in a season of 50 or fewer plate appearances.
  • Olsen lost his rotation spot after this shellacking and never started another game in the major leagues.

The “Games of the Decade” series is also available as a YouTube playlist (games listed there in chronological order)