MIAMI (AP) -- The Florida Marlins' dugout had cleared and players were already huddled around the plate before Josh Willingham could even watch his game-winning home run sail.
Willingham's winning homer in the 10th inning came after Hanley Ramirez's tying shot in the ninth forced extra innings, and the Marlins rallied to beat the Washington Nationals 6-5 on Monday night.The celebration was anticlimactic: nobody jumping or cheering, and barely a few high-fives before a slow walk to the locker room. The Marlins are getting used to these kinds of celebrations."There was somebody yelling in the pile, 'Hey don't jump on him,'" Willingham said. "I was hoping they wouldn't."A day earlier, players jumped on one another after a ninth-inning rally against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Not this time, in part because these late rallies are becoming the norm for Florida, but also because no one wanted to hurt Willingham. The outfielder returned a week earlier after missing 50 games with a back injury.It was the third career walkoff homer for Willingham, whose shot off Jon Rauch (4-2) was his second of the game.Ramirez hit his 18th off Rauch in the ninth. The Marlins shortstop also hit a tying homer in the ninth a day earlier."To do something like that feels great, you can't do that everyday," Ramirez said, chuckling as he realized he had just done so a day earlier.The Marlins have eight wins in their last at-bat this season, tying them with the Nationals for best in the majors. It was the fifth blown save in 21 chances for Rauch."If I make those pitches where they needed to be, then obviously we're not in this situation," Rauch said. "That's one of the things about my job is that when I make mistakes, they generally cost us ballgames -- that's what happened tonight."Kevin Gregg (6-2) allowed a single and walk in the 10th before striking out Wil Nieves as the Marlins improved to 1-9 against Washington this season.Renyel Pinto's wild pitch in the eighth scored Ronnie Belliard, giving the Nationals a 5-4 lead.Tim Redding was replaced after he gave up two hits to start the sixth. Jesus Colome came in and allowed Matt Treanor's sacrifice fly that tied it at 4.Redding stuck out six in five-plus innings, giving up four runs on eight hits for the Nationals. The outing was his eighth straight no-decision.Dmitri Young and Elijah Dukes hit solo homers in the fifth to put Washington ahead 4-3.Ryan Tucker got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, allowing only one run in the inning to keep the Marlins ahead 3-2. Tucker gave up four runs and six hits in five innings.Willingham's two-run homer over the left-field wall in the third put Florida ahead 3-1. The homers were his first since returning to the lineup June 24. He hadn't homered since April 24 at Atlanta."We never quit and just believe in each other," Willingham said. "Somebody seems to come through a lot of the times in the late inning."And the home runs have given the Nationals fits."We've been unable to keep them in the ballpark -- that's been the story for two years," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "They just seem to bomb away. They seem to do it against us constantly."
The Nationals optioned INF Pete Orr to Triple-A Columbus after the game to make room for Tuesday's starting pitcher Collin Balester, who'll be making his major league debut. ... Marlins 2B Dan Uggla was out of the lineup a second straight game after he sprained his left ankle Saturday. Manager Fredi Gonzalez reiterated Monday that Uggla is still not expected to play until Florida begins a four-game series at Colorado on Thursday. ... Marlins P Josh Johnson threw 104 pitches in 5 2/3 innings Sunday in a rehab start at Double-A Carolina. The team said Johnson, who has been recovering from reconstructive elbow ligament surgery, will pitch one more rehab start Friday and likely join the team after that.