Ricky Nolasco described his rough patch in the middle of the season as a “little gray cloud.”
There was nothing gray or cloudy about his performance Sunday.
Nolasco took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before settling for a four-hit shutout in the Marlins’ 8-0 romp over first-place Washington at Nationals Park. It was his second blanking of the Nationals in 12 days.
“I felt pretty good, I’m not going to lie,” Nolasco said.
The Marlins’ all-time wins leader added to his total with his best outing of the season. He didn’t allow a hit until Michael Morse shot a single through the left side of the infield with one out in the fifth.
Nolasco has now won each of his past three starts, a 25-inning stretch in which he has allowed only one earned run. It sure beats his stretch of games — his “little gray cloud,” as he puts it — from early June to mid-August when he lost nine of 12 decisions.
“Making 32 starts a year, it’s tough to be good on all of them,” Nolasco said. “I know I had some bad starts, not going deep into games like I should. But you have to stay strong mentally because you know it’s a grind.”
One day after a severe storm tore through the District of Columbia, causing a 153-minute rain delay that preceded an extra-inning loss for the Marlins, the sun was exceptionally bright and distracting. Just ask any of the outfielders.
Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper lost Nolasco’s fly ball in the sun in the second inning. The ball landed untouched at his feet for a two-run double that gave the Marlins a 3-0 lead. Later, when the Marlins were comfortably ahead, Giancarlo Stanton also lost a fly ball in the sun that fell in for a double.
“Tough sun today,” said Marlins center fielder Justin Ruggiano, who managed to make a difficult catch because of the sun on an otherwise routine fly ball in the second inning.
The Marlins lineup had a productive series, and Sunday was a continuation. The Marlins compiled 14 hits, with nine coming off Nationals starter Edwin Jackson, who was knocked out in the fifth. The Marlins scored six of their eight runs with two outs, and they racked up 21 runs in the three games.
Stanton put his affinity for Nationals Park on display again Sunday when he hit his 33rd home run of the year, a towering leadoff shot in the seventh that dropped into the flower bed in left, just in front of the first row of bleacher seats.
In his 20-game career at Nationals Park, Stanton has a .385 average (31 for 80),11 home runs and 20 RBI.
“This place is pretty good to me,” Stanton said.
Greg Dobbs singled three times, and rookie infielder Donovan Solano continued to contribute with the bat, going 1 for 3 with a RBI sacrifice fly and two runs scored. Over his past 22 games, Solano has gone 31 for 86 (.360) to go with 13 runs scored, two doubles, a triple and 10 RBI.
The Marlins split their season series with the Nationals (nine wins apiece). But the Nationals own the best record in the majors while the Marlins sit dead last in the division, 23 1/2 games behind Washington.
“We matched up against them pretty good,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. “They just had a better season than we had. They beat the people they’re supposed to beat. We didn’t.”