Despite early lead, Marlins left feeling snakebit once more in Washington
WASHINGTON — Don’t believe in curses? Perhaps think again.
An early five-run lead didn’t hold and neither did a late one-run advantage for the Marlins during Wednesday night’s 10-7 loss to the host Nationals.
Giancarlo Stanton, among baseball’s RBI leaders, failed to drive in a runner at third with one out in the fourth inning. He was later thrown out as an insurance run in the eighth.
Lefty Dan Jennings rushed in for a chopper with every intention of throwing out the go-ahead runner dashing for home in the sixth. But as he approached it, the ball somehow missed his glove for an error.
It’s almost to be expected at Nationals Park, where the club has gone 1-11 since last season.
"Every time we get in a position where we can make something happen we make a mistake and let them in the game," manager Mike Redmond said. "This is a ballclub here where obviously they can put up big numbers quick, and if you give them extra outs they’re going to make you pay, and they did that."
Though Miami (5-4) viewed its three-game set against Washington (6-2) as any other division series, it was inevitable the performance would be scrutinized. Some experts believe the Nationals are World Series favorites.
Early on Wednesday, the offense bounced back from Tuesday’s 5-0 loss — the fifth shutout at the venue since 2013.
The first three batters reached base en route to a two-run inning, which surpassed the club’s output during last year’s three-game opening series.
Derek Dietrich blasted a two-run home run to center field in the second off righty Jordan Zimmermann that was initially ruled a run-scoring triple. Upon further review, umpires discovered the ball hit the metal railing over the wall and awarded him the homer.
Through two innings, the Marlins led by five. Over 10 games in 2013, they put just 15 runs on the scoreboard.
Left-hander Brad Hand, starting for righty Jacob Turner who landed on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain, looked comfortable with the lead. Hand allowed just one hit and three total baserunners through the first three innings.
Things imploded for him in momentum-turning fourth.
Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman collected back-to-back singles before Ian Desmond struck out on a 94 mph fastball. Then up came Bryce Harper, sporting a .160 batting average and strikeout in his first at-bat.
Harper fouled off everything Hand threw his way, and on the 10th pitch, knocked the ball into the upperdeck for a three-run homer.
"Obviously you’re trying to go out there and put up zeroes no matter what the score is, but a five-run lead you want to go as long as you can and put up zeroes," said Hand, who was then pulled for Kevin Slowey.
Instead of building back its lead, Miami stranded a pair of runners over the next two frames. Washington chipped away with another run in the fifth and took a 6-5 lead in the sixth with four hits and two errors.
Stanton’s fielding miscue on Zimmerman’s leadoff double put him at third. Desmond’s swinging bunt scored him. Harper collected another hit and Jose Lobaton followed with the grounder that Jennings misplayed.
Still, Jarrod Saltalamacchia picked up his first home run as a Marlin — a solo shot to center off Drew Storen — to knot the game up at 6 in the seventh.
Christian Yelich, who reached base five times, walked to lead off the eighth and scored on Garrett Jones’ double to give the Marlins a 7-6 lead.
"There’s no give-up, that’s for sure," Saltalamacchia said. "That’s what I love to see. We had a five-run lead, got some guys on and a three-run homer, they battled back made some good at-bats. But we never gave up and we were in that game and winning. We never gave up even until the last out."
Enter Carlos Marmol.
A pitch hit Nate McLouth with one out before Denard Span bunted for a hit. Marmol intentionally walked Anthony Rendon, and Werth connected on a grand slam for the deciding swing on a 0-1 offering.
After opening the season 5-1, the Marlins have dropped three in a row. This stretch comes as the first adversity in a young — and long — season. How Miami responds will speak volumes.
"This is over. Today’s over," Marmol said. "Tomorrow’s a new day, hopefully we can get it back tomorrow."