The nation’s capital was most inhospitable for the Marlins a season ago. They went 1-9 at Nationals Park, were outscored 44-15, and were shut out on four occasions.
The Marlins are in the Nationals’ division.
But, in reality, they weren’t in their league.
And maybe they’re still not.
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After racing out to a 5-0 lead on Wednesday, the Marlins’ bubble burst and the Nationals — behind a three-run home run blast by Bryce Harper and a grand slam by Jayson Werth — came away with a 10-7 victory.
They have now won 11 of their past 12 meetings with Miami in D.C.
It was a combination of elements that led to Wednesday’s meltdown. The pair of big home runs. Poor pitching. And three more fielding errors to add to the team’s burgeoning total.
For the Marlins, it was a disheartening loss, and one that reminded them that they have a long way to go to catch up to the Nationals, even on a night when Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann was pushed around.
It all went down like this:
The Marlins jumped out to a 5-0 lead on Zimmermann, who was very noticeably not his usual self. Zimmermann gave up seven hits, including a Derek Dietrich two-run homer, and was lifted with two outs in the second. It was the shortest outing of his career.
Offensively, at least for the first couple of innings, it was a game that was long overdue for the Marlins. Their stretch of ineptness from the 2013 season spilled over into Tuesday’s 5-0 setback, and they returned to face a hurler in Zimmermann who had had mild success (4-3, 3.41 ERA) in his 11 career starts against the Marlins.
Though the Marlins quickly dispatched of Zimmermann on Wednesday, they allowed the Nationals plenty of time to play catch up on Brad Hand, who was starting in place of injured pitcher Jacob Turner.
Hand managed to provide three scoreless innings before running into trouble in the fourth when he gave up back-to-back singles to Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman. After striking out Ian Desmond, he went to work on Harper.
Rather, it was Harper who went to work on Hand, fouling off pitch after pitch before crushing a three-run homer into the upper deck on the 10th pitch of the lengthy at bat. And that was it for Hand, who was pulled after throwing 85 pitches, the last of which Harper belted for his first extra-base hit of the season.
Matters didn’t improve greatly for the Marlins after Kevin Slowey took over. The Nationals cut the lead to 5-4 on Werth’s ground ball in the fifth before taking the lead, 6-5, in the sixth with a pair of runs off Slowey and Dan Jennings.
In that sixth inning, Giancarlo Stanton misplayed a ball in right for an error. And with runners at first and third and no outs, Jennings failed to glove a routine ball that would have resulted in a likely easy tag play at the plate.
That raised the Marlins’ error total to 10. But they weren’t done. Dietrich was charged with a throwing error in the eighth, bringing the grand total on the season to 11.
Still, despite the miscues, Jarrod Saltalamacchia tied it up with his leadoff home run in the seventh, a solo shot that was also his first home run as a Marlin.
The Marlins regained the lead in the eighth when Garrett Jones doubled off the first base bag.
But with the bases loaded and Carlos Marmol on the mound, Werth walloped a grand slam that brought the Nationals back from another deficit — this time for good.