Following sweep, Marlins look to salvage road trip against another divisional foe

Miami Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis, left, talks with relief pitcher Arquimedes Caminero during the eighth inning.

Alex Brandon/AP

WASHINGTON — Annie sang in the Tony Award-winning musical about the promise of tomorrow.

The beauty of baseball season is that it resembles a marathon rather than a sprint, where one must master resiliency for quick turnarounds.

After jumping out to a 5-2 start — one of the best in club history — the Marlins flew to Washington earlier this week riding momentum off strong pitching and timely hitting.

Yet for the second straight game, a close contest got blown wide open on an eighth-inning grand slam, and the Nationals completed the sweep with a 7-1 victory Thursday.

"The last two days have been a little tough," said starter Tom Koehler, who took the loss after six innings of two-run ball. "Great part about it though is we get to come back out tomorrow, play another division team and get this ship going back in the right direction."

Miami (5-5), which has dropped four in a row, travels to Philadelphia for a weekend series with the Phillies.

Marlins vs. Nationals

Aside from a two-run homer by Jayson Werth in the third, Koehler (1-1) matched righty Stephen Strasburg (1-1) pitch for pitch.

With a runner at third and one out in the fourth, Koehler collected back-to-back strikeouts when he needed them most. Over his final frame, he tossed just eight pitches. Following a 37-30 strike-to-ball breakdown, he threw just six more balls over the final 29 pitches.

Marcell Ozuna knocked his first home run since Opening Day off Strasburg in the seventh, trimming the deficit to one.

Ian Desmond connected on a grand slam off righty Arquimedes Caminero in the next half inning, providing plenty of insurance. Werth did the same when the Marlins intentionally walked the bases loaded to set up a double play on Wednesday.

Four Nationals recorded multi-hit games, including Werth and Adam LaRoche in the middle of the order.

Take away a crucial, momentum-swinging sequence from each game, and the outcome would’ve been closer.

"This is a great lineup, there’s no doubt," manager Mike Redmond said. "Thinking back to the first night, we had to use a lot of bullpen guys, then we lose (Jacob Turner). We’ve been reeling down there ever since then.

"This is a tough lineup to navigate and we got to get some things figured out, but we’ll do it. I think we all wished for a better showing here, but we know we can play against these guys."

Strasburg fanned 12 batters and scattered three hits. He and three relievers forced the Marlins to tie a dubious franchise mark with 17 strikeouts in a nine-inning game — last done April 28, 2002.

Entering Thursday, the Marlins posted a .326 average with runners on base — second-best in the National League — and a .309 average with men in scoring position (third in the NL). They went 0 for 5 on Thursday.

Miami scored one run over 18 innings, overshadowing the seven-run outburst from Wednesday’s loss. Casey McGehee and Giancarlo Stanton, who came into the series with 21 RBI, combined to go 0 for 8 on Thursday with six strikeouts.

"It’s not fun. Obviously we would’ve like to have come in and taken a game or two here," said McGehee, who went 0 for 4. "We can still salvage the roadtrip. We have to go to Philly and get back at it. The good thing is we did have a nice start at home. We’re 5-5, it’s not like we’re 1-9.

"There’s going to be times like this. We’ve got three big ones in Philly, then we get to come back home and see these guys again."

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