The Marlins already have made a little history this season, becoming one of only five National League teams since 1969 to win at least 74 games following a 100-loss season.
The trouble is — with the division-winning Washington Nationals in their way for eight of their last 11 games — continuing that upward trend as the season winds down is proving to be difficult.
Friday night, Doug Fister became the latest Nationals pitcher to shut down the Marlins. He held them to a mere five hits over 62/3 innings as Washington kept its lead for the best overall record in the National League over the Dodgers with a 3-2 victory in front of 19,815 at Marlins Park.
The Marlins (74-79) haven’t been mathematically eliminated in the wild-card race yet, but they’re knocking on the door and their chance at finishing .500 or better also appears to be slipping away.
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“They’re a good lineup, and Fister has been pitching real good,” said Marlins starter Tom Koehler, who gave up a two-run bomb to Adam LaRoche in the first inning and lasted only five innings because his pitch count got too high.
“Any time you give them a two-point advantage before we even get started it’s going to be tough. There’s a reason they are where they are.”
Koehler, who came in with no decisions in his previous five starts despite posting a 3.19 ERA over that span, gave up three earned runs on six hits. He also walked four, struck out five, but needed 98 pitches to get through five.
The Nationals scored all three runs off him with two outs and two strikes. After a walk to Jayson Werth, Laroche crushed a 3-2 pitch into the second deck in right-center field to put the Nats ahead.
“Those guys put the ball in the seats; that’s what they do,” manager Mike Redmond said. “You look at the middle of that order — they have four guys with 80 RBI. Those guys can do some damage. Tommy gave up the home run. But other than that he kept us in the game.”
Koehler needed 29 pitches to get out of the first inning and then ran into trouble again in the third when he gave up a leadoff triple to Denard Span and then walked the next two batters. But Koehler got out of the bases-loaded, no-out jam by striking out LaRoche looking and getting Ian Desmond to line out to second for an inning-ending double play.
Span eventually drove in the decisive run in the fourth when he singled to right off Koehler on a 2-2 pitch. On the previous pitch — a curveball — Koehler just missed a called strike that would have ended the inning.
The Marlins, playing without National League MVP candidate Giancarlo Stanton for the final 17 games of the season, had chances to score on Fister.
Marcell Ozuna tripled and scored in the second, and Justin Bour hit his first career home run — a second-deck shot to right-center similar to LaRoche’s — to open the fourth inning. But that was it.
“Obviously, it felt good to get that home run, but it’s not as enjoyable as if we would’ve won,” said Bour, who got the ball back after it caromed off the seats and back onto the field.
“You never know when a ball goes out here. I’ve seen a lot of balls that I thought were for sure gone and somehow they just get stuck up there. I’m glad it did go out.”
Garrett Jones nearly put one out himself in the second inning, but it hit the base of the wall in center. He settled for a double.
The Marlins left Jones stranded at second and also left a runner in scoring position in the third and seventh innings.
“That’s the difference,” Redmond said. “These guys have been able to get the big two-out hits. We had a few opportunities and couldn’t get a two out hit.”
▪ Christian Yelich finished 0for4 and had his 16-game hitting streak at Marlins Park snapped.