Leaky bullpen unable to hold Nats' early lead
MIAMI -- Anthony Rendon and Victor Robles each homered to stake Washington to an early lead, but the Nats' bullpen faltered in an 8-5 loss to the Marlins on Monday night in the first of a two-game set at Marlins Park.
"Walks killed us today, all the way around," said manager Dave Martinez of a staff that combined for six base on balls.
The Nats were unable to gain ground on the division-leading Braves, who lost to St. Louis, and still trail by 7 1/2 games. The loss and the Cards' win dropped Washington further back in the Wild Card chase. The Nats fell to seven games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot with 11 games remaining.
Jimmy Cordero and Koda Glover combined for five runs allowed on six hits over 1 1/3 innings of relief.
"They just need to take a step back and breathe, don't let the game speed up," Martinez said. "Just limit the damage. But when you come in and you walk guys, it's tough. Especially the leadoff guys. You walk them, [and] they tend to score."
Glover had his scoreless-inning streak snapped at 8 1/3 innings over 10 games. This is just the second time he has allowed more than one hit in an outing in 18 appearances this season.
The bullpen's struggles overshadowed Robles' first Major League home run, a three-hit night for Rendon and a nice, albeit shortened, outing from starter Erick Fedde.
The Washington right-hander worked 4 1/3 innings in his first time facing the Marlins. He gave up two runs on two hits. A former first-round pick, Fedde coasted through four innings giving up just a second-inning double to Peter O'Brien.
But his command wasn't the best. While he did strike out six, Fedde walked four and labored through a 93-pitch, 51-strike night. He ran out of gas in the fifth inning, walking two batters before yielding a two-run double to Starlin Castro that sliced Washington's lead to 4-2.
"Sucks I put my bullpen in a tough spot and left with some guys on base," Fedde said.
It was a lead the bullpen could not hold.
Robles and Rendon staked the Nats to an early 4-0 lead. Robles ignited a three-run third inning with his first big league homer, projected at 427 feet by Statcast™, a solo blast that led off the inning. Trea Turner followed with a single and has now reached base safely in 18 straight games. He scored when Rendon belted his 21st homer of the season, a two-run smash over the left-field fence, to make it 4-0.
Rendon got the Nats on the scoreboard initially, scoring from third in the second inning on a Marlins error. He led off the inning with a single, extending his on-base streak to an NL-best 26 games.
"He's the constant professional for us," Martinez said. "For me, he's the guy that makes everything happen. Shows up every day, plays every day, just does everything you could ask; just a really good all-around player. [Others] don't talk about him that much, but I appreciate everything he does and what he means to this ballclub."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nats reliever Wander Suero was in a jam in the sixth inning. He entered with the game tied, 4-4, and runners at first and third with only one out. Marlins speedster Magneuris Sierra took his lead off first base, and Suero threw over several times. On his final attempt, he was called for a balk, and Miami took a 5-4 lead.
Martinez said he got no real explanation from the umpires on the crucial balk call.
"[The umpire said] it was different," Martinez said. "He said he saw something different. I said, 'He did it four times, and he's been doing it all year.' I said, 'This is the first time it's been called a balk.' He's been doing the same thing all year long. I just don't know."
Washington has totaled six or more hits in 22 consecutive games, with at least one extra-base hit in 20 of those.
HE SAID IT
"We've got to win these games. We're still in it. I know those guys are not going to quit." -- Martinez, after the Nats' bullpen blew an opportunity to gain ground in the NL East
The Nationals wrap up a brief two-game trip to Miami with a 7:10 p.m. ET finale on Tuesday. Washington gets its first look at Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara, who is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts for Miami this season. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg goes for the Nats, looking to build on his only start against the Marlins this season -- a five-inning scoreless stint. Over his career, Strasburg is 16-7 against Miami in 29 starts.