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Jason Marquis talked his way into finishing the sixth inning yesterday.
It's not an entirely meaningless stat. If nothing else, it shows you the Nats have yet to receive one legitimately sub-par outing from a starting pitcher this season. But it also leaves out an important point: Just because they're lasting at least five innings doesn't mean they're pitching deep into these games.
Indeed, only six times in 20 games has a Nationals starter thrown even one pitch in the seventh inning. Livan Hernandez (to the surprise of no one) has three of those six starts. Jason Marquis has two; Jordan Zimmermann has one; John Lannan and Tom Gorzelanny have yet to do it.
Jim Riggleman has talked about the need for his starters to go deeper in games, but the manager's actions suggest he still doesn't have complete faith in all of his starters to do it, particularly the younger guys like Lannan and Zimmermann.
During yesterday's game, though, Riggleman allowed Marquis to talk himself into at least finishing the sixth when things were beginning to look a bit hairy.
The Nats led 5-3 at the time, but with two outs and the dangerous Andrew McCutchen at the plate with a man on first, Riggleman walked to the mound ready to remove his starter. Marquis quickly convinced his manager to leave him in.
"He wanted no part of coming out of that game," Riggleman said. "Had a couple opportunities where maybe he could have said that's enough for the day, but he was adamant: 'I feel good, let me get this next hitter.'"
Marquis got McCutchen to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning and preserve the lead. Afterward, he expressed thanks to Riggleman for trusting him to pitch out of the jam, while admitting he had to live up to his end of the bargain.
"Obviously if he does [leave you in], you've got to go out there and be productive and get that guy out, or get that extra inning under your belt, which will allow him to give you a longer leash as the season goes on," Marquis said. "What it basically comes down to is: Be true to yourself. Be true to your manager. Try not go outside your capabilities. If you're tired and you feel like you can't get it done, be honest."
Marquis may have earned his manager's trust yesterday, enough to allow him to go deeper in future starts. Lannan and Zimmermann may still need to earn it.