Offense struggles as Washington Nationals drop series opener in Miami
By Pablo Roa
With all the buzz surrounding the Washington Nationals’ acquisition of Jonathan Papelbon this afternoon, it was easy to forget that the team had a baseball game to play tonight. Unfortunately for the Nationals, an afternoon that started with excitement over the trade ended in disappointment as the team lost to the Miami Marlins in the first game of a three-game series.
Things started out well for the Nationals. The team was fresh coming off a much-needed off day on Monday and the offense got a major boost as Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth were both activated from the disabled list hours before the game.
While the offense as a whole couldn’t do much against Marlins pitching today, Zimmerman’s return to the lineup was felt right away by the Nationals. After Bryce Harper led off the top of the second inning with a walk, Zimmerman checked in with a double to left field to move Harper to third base. Harper went on to score later in the inning on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Wilson Ramos, giving Washington a 1-0 lead against Marlins starter Jose Fernandez.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, that was all the damage the offense could do against Miami’s ace. Fernandez was solid all night long, allowing one run on four hits while striking out five batters. The Nationals had plenty of chances against Fernandez—the right-hander walked four batters and the Nationals loaded the bases against him in the fifth inning—but Washington wasn’t able to capitalize beyond the lone run they scored in the second.
Jordan Zimmermann got the start for the Nationals and was even better than Fernandez early on. The Nationals’ right-hander started the game with four scoreless innings, allowing just three hits over that span. In the bottom of the fifth inning, however, the Marlins started to figure things out against the Nationals’ starter.
Miami tied the game in the fifth on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Adeiny Hechavarria. An inning later, the Marlins took a 2-1 lead on an RBI single by Martin Prado. The Marlins scored their third run later in the inning on a single by J.T. Realmuto. All three runs were charged to Zimmermann, and the Nationals were in a 3-1 hole heading into the late innings.
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On the night, Zimmermann allowed three runs on eight hits over six innings of work. The right-hander was efficient all night, throwing 76 pitches in five innings, 50 of which were strikes. Unfortunately for Zimmermann, the offense didn’t provide a whole lot of run support.
The Marlins scored their fourth and final run in the seventh inning on an RBI single off the bat of Christian Yelich, stretching their lead to 4-1. The Nationals mounted a rally in the top of the ninth—loading the bases with one out against Marlins’ closer A.J. Ramos—but Yunel Escobar hit into a double play to end the game and secure the victory for the Marlins.
With the Nationals’ loss and the Mets’ 4-0 win over the Padres, the Nationals’ lead in the NL East is down to just one game.
Next Game: The Nationals look to even the series against the Marlins tomorrow night in Miami. Doug Fister gets the start for the Nationals while Tom Koehler takes the mound for the Marlins at 7:10 p.m. ET.