J.T. Realmuto was 90 feet from home, the front of his uniform soiled by a belly slide into the bag to complete a leadoff triple, and for the first time Wednesday the Marlins had Stephen Strasburg on the ropes.
It was the fifth inning. There was no score.
But Realmuto advanced no further. Strasburg struck out Derek Dietrich, then A.J. Ellis, and after intentionally walking Miguel Rojas to get to pitcher Adam Conley, got a weak fly ball for the third out.
In a series that saw the Marlins fall back to earth, it was par for the course.
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“I guess that did pretty much sums up the series,” said manager Don Mattingly. “Nothing really went right for us as far as getting runs across.”
Strasburg tossed a shutout as the Nationals emerged with a 4-0 win to complete the sweep and shove the Marlins back to .500. The Marlins were outscored 23-5 in the three games, went 1 for 22 with runners in scoring position, and had their playoff hopes dimmed by the clearly superior Nats.
The Marlins remained 5 1/2 games behind the Rockies for the second Wild Card spot, but they return home with both time and momentum against them.
“Three games at their place against the team leading our division doesn’t outweigh how long we’ve been playing good baseball,” said Conley, who took the loss. “It’s just three games.”
Strasburg was too much for them, just as Max Scherzer was too much for them on Monday and even journeyman Edwin Jackson was on Tuesday when the Marlins -- outside of a first-inning home run from Giancarlo Stanton -- never got the big hit.
The Marlins were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position on Monday, 0 for 8 on Tuesday, and 0 for 6 on Wednesday.
“As far as coming in here and kind of getting buzz-sawed, at this point it’s done,” Mattingly said. “There’s a long ways to go. We still got to get back on track and get moving.”
It wasn’t only Strasburg’s pitching that did them in Wednesday. His bat did, as well. Strasburg homered off Conley in the fifth and later added a single that led to a run.
Only Realmuto and Dee Gordon did much of anything with the wood. Realmuto had three of the Marlins’ six hits -- a single, double and triple -- off Strasburg. Gordon had two.
Gordon and Stanton are on the cusp of becoming only the third speed and power duo in Major League history to steal at least 50 bases and hit at least 50 homers.
With 51 homers, Stanton has already done his part. Gordon needs three more steals to reach 50.
“I need to catch up,” Gordon said.
The only other 50-50 combinations: Cleveland’s Albert Belle (50 homers) and Kenny Lofton (54 steals) in 1995, and the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa (50 homers) and Eric Young (54 steals) in 2000.
Gordon’s and Stanton’s numbers aren’t mutually exclusive.
When Gordon reaches, pitchers have to divide their attention between holding the runner while facing Stanton, who bats directly behind Gordon.
“I do think it’s an advantage (for Stanton) when Dee’s getting on base,” said manager Don Mattingly. “You’re trying to be quicker to the plate. Some (pitchers) are okay with that. Some guys are just not as good with that, and it bothers them.”
The Marlins are now wearing patches on their uniform sleeves to honor the late Felo Ramirez, the Marlins’ long-time Spanish-language broadcaster who died last week.
The name “Felo” is superimposed over a broadcast microphone.
Thursday -- Marlins RHP Odrisamer Despaigne (0-1, 3.70) vs. Philadelphia Phillies RHP Ben Lively (11-5, 4.36), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
Friday -- Marlins RHP Dan Straily (8-8, 3.80) vs. Philadelphia Phillies RHP Nick Pivetta (5-9, 6.57), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.