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WASHINGTON (AP) — Even at age 35 and with a history of hamstring injuries, Howie Kendrick keeps making it tough for his manager to keep him out of the lineup.
Kendrick answered the call again Sunday with three hits and three RBIs, including his eighth home run, in Washington's 9-6 victory over the Miami Marlins.
"You want to put him out there every day," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "But I've got to make sure that he's rested and he stays healthy throughout the whole year."
Injuries have forced Kendrick into more early action than expected, and without him Washington's struggles so far could've been even worse. After 43 games — 25 starts — he's batting .303, sits tied for second on the team in home runs and is third with 28 RBIs.
"There's a reason why he's been playing for so long," teammate Anthony Rendon said. "The man is a bulldog out there."
Brian Dozier doubled in two during a four-run rally against Caleb Smith (3-2) with two outs in the third, his final inning.
"I didn't think I had command of any of my pitches," Smith said after his shortest outing this season "They capitalized on it."
Juan Soto drew a key two-out walk in the inning. He added a sacrifice fly in a four-run sixth against Wei-Yin Chen and extended his hitting streak to 10 games with an eighth-inning single.
Michael A. Taylor doubled home a run in the sixth and Rendon added a two-run triple to help the Nationals build a 9-0 cushion. Washington has scored 28 runs while winning three straight in a four-game set that wraps Monday.
The Nationals entered the series on a five-game losing streak.
"It's good knowing that we can string together some wins to get the confidence back in here of knowing we're a really good ballclub," Dozier said.
Erick Fedde (1-0) worked five scoreless innings for his first win since Sept. 11 last year. He made his second start in place of injured Anibal Sanchez.
"I think Fedde doing what he did really got us going," Martinez said. "He came out smoking right from the first inning. And the guys fed off of that."
Miami scored all its runs in the last two innings against Washington's NL-worst bullpen. Neil Walker homered in the eighth and hit an RBI single in the ninth after Brian Anderson's three-run triple chased James Bourque from his big league debut.
"We got some hits there to at least make it look better," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "But honestly, it probably wasn't as close as it looked."
HOW THE THIRD INNING TURNED
After Kendrick's solo homer in the second, it was still 1-0 in the third when Soto fought back from an 0-2 hole against Smith to draw a walk and load the bases. Kendrick followed with a two-run single, and Dozier's double off the out-of-town scoreboard knocked in two more.
The rally came after Fedde escaped a bases-loaded jam unscathed in the top half, striking out Walker on a 2-2 curveball.
"Those are the moments when you find out who you are," Fedde said.
Marlins: OF Garrett Cooper was held out of the starting lineup, but pinch-hit in the ninth inning. "It's just a day for Coop," Mattingly said before the game. "He looked a little beat up yesterday."
Nationals: Martinez said he'd like to see RHP Trevor Rosenthal (viral infection) throw on back-to-back days before making a return to the majors. Rosenthal is scheduled to pitch Monday for Double-A Harrisburg after tossing a scoreless inning Saturday.
Marlins: RHP Jose Urena (2-6, 4.30 ERA) starts Monday's series finale. He has won three consecutive starts against Washington and has a 2.80 ERA over 45 innings during his last seven outings.
Nationals: Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (2-5, 3.41) makes his final start of a frustrating month. He has a 2.53 ERA in five outings in May, but has won only one of his three decisions.
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