Early on in Sunday’s start, Brad Hand looked every bit the dominating left-hander the Marlins have seen several times this August, only for his struggles against Washington to return in his second and third trips through the order.
Jayson Werth belted a two-run homer in the third and added an RBI double in a three-run fifth inning that Hand failed to complete, and the Marlins lost 7-4 to the Nationals in the series decider.
“He just couldn’t make some pitches there in some tough situations when he needed to,” manager Dan Jennings said.
Justin Bour belted his 14th homer and second in as many games, and Derek Dietrich added his 10th of the year, but Miami lost its third consecutive series and second straight series against Washington. Adeiny Hechevarria doubled and had three hits.
Hand (4-4) allowed five of Washington’s seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, and is now 0-6 with a ERA to 7.96 against the club. The 24-year-old entered Sunday with a 3-1 record and 2.90 ERA over his previous five starts since returning to the rotation.
“Just a matter of execution,” said Hand, who allowed eight hits, struck out five, and walked two. “If I make a pitch there in the fifth inning, we’ve still got the lead and I’m still pitching.”
The Marlins fell to .500 (6-6) against the Nationals after beginning the year 5-2. They can still influence the division race with six more games against Washington and seven against the NL East-leading New York Mets.
“It’s a great experience for a lot of these young guys,” Jennings said. “Some of our young pitchers especially are getting opportunities to showcase their abilities and for the most part they’re stepping up in a big way.”
After Bour’s blast to center gave Miami a 3-0 first-inning lead, Hand struck out four of the first seven Nationals he faced, using a biting slider to fool Bryce Harper to end the first and Danny Espinosa to end the second.
But after Michael Taylor’s single to lead off the third, Werth pulled Hand’s one-out, full-count fastball into the Marlins bullpen.
Dietrich made it 4-2 in the fourth when he homered off Stephen Strasburg, who gave way after that inning to Doug Fister (5-7).
Taylor singled again to start the fifth and scored on Werth’s double inside the bag at third. Harper and Ryan Zimmerman followed with two-out RBI singles to make it 5-4. Clint Robinson’s pinch-hit, two-run blast off Erick Cordier made it 7-4 in the sixth.
Christian Yelich didn't start for a fourth straight game with a sore right knee, but did single as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. Jennings said Yelich is still “day-to-day” regarding his return to the starting lineup.
Bour’s two home runs this series are the third and fourth of his career against Washington, and his second and third at Nationals Park, a short drive from where he grew up in Centerville, Va.
In season that may solidify his place in the majors, Bour’s games here are still an event for family and friends.
“I’m still leaving a lot of tickets when I come here to town,” Bour said. “I’ve kind of had to calm them down a little bit.”
▪ Monday: Marlins (LHP Chris Narveson, 1-1, 7.04) at Atlanta Braves (RHP Mike Foltynewicz, 4-6, 5.71), 7:10 p.m., Turner Field.