Mistakes, shaky bullpen prevent Marlins from taking series from Nationals

MIAMI — With their ace on the mound ahead by three runs, it looked like the Marlins were in line for its first series win since the opening week of the season.

Until things unraveled during the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s 6-3 loss to the Nationals at Marlins Park.

Jayson Werth blasted a two-out, three-run homer to right-center off right-hander Jose Fernandez after two errors kept the rally alive.

Jose Lobaton led off with a double to right and Tanner Roark reached on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s throw to third on a sacrifice bunt that pulled Casey McGehee away from the baserunner. Fernandez struck out Nate McLouth after Saltalamacchia dropped a pop-up in foul territory and Anthony Rendon popped out to second.

"Bullpen, errors hurt you … We felt good obviously. When Diet’s hit that three-run home run that was a big lift. We had some good at-bats in front of him," manager Mike Redmond said. "We just ran into that sixth inning. They started off with a double. We had a chance to get an out and didn’t get it. Just kind of snow balled from there. I thought Jose was going to pitch himself out of that. He made some great pitches to (Anthony) Rendon and then he just made a mistake and the guy hit out. Three-run home run. That was a big momentum shift for us at that point."

Marlins vs. Nationals

Fernandez had been cruising — his lone mistake a Danny Espinosa double with two outs in the second. Five of the first seven outs went to the outfield. He struck out four of the next five batters, settling into a groove.

It all came five days after the second shortest outing of his career when he allowed career highs in hits (8) and earned runs (6) in four-plus innings in Philadelphia.

Over his previous two starts, he had given up one run in 12 2/3 innings for an impressive 0.71 ERA. He matched his career high in walks (4) and didn’t record a strikeout until his 50th pitch.

It also snapped his streak of 20 straight games of three runs or fewer allowed, dating back to last May.

"I came out there like I always do trying to go out there and do my job because whatever happened to me personal wasn’t a big deal," said Fernandez, who struck out a season-high 10 and walked none. "This is a team and I’m playing for my team. I’m just trying to go out there and give my team a chance to win every day."

But Fernandez would only pitch through the seventh because of that sixth inning.

Lefty Mike Dunn entered in the eighth and gave up a leadoff homer to pinch-hitter Zach Walters on his second pitch. A.J. Ramos relieved him two batters later, but Ian Desmond produced a two-run single to provide added cushion for Washington’s bullpen.

Miami relievers have now surrendered seven homers, tied for second most in the majors.

Last season, the Marlins boasted the 11th-best bullpen in the majors with a 3.42 ERA. It ranks 18th so far in 2014 after giving up 24 runs in 50 2/3 innings. The Nationals have scored 15 eighth-inning runs and knocked nine homers against the Marlins over six games.

A series victory over a division rival quickly went up in smoke. Miami has dropped nine of 10 and must rebound following an off day to host the Mariners over the weekend.

"Keeping heads up… It’s part of the game," Dunn said. "To play at this level you have to be able to forget the past and move onto the next game. There’s nothing I can do about that pitch now other than get better, figure out how to make that pitch better, don’t do that again pretty much. Got to forget about it and take each outing one game at a time. You can’t dwell on the past. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you."

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.