WASHINGTON -- Marlins left-hander Caleb Smith has been so consistent this season it seemed almost a given he’d work out of early trouble against the Nationals on Sunday.
He was unable to escape, however, and the Nationals broke through for a four-run third inning and opened up a nine-run lead to send the Marlins to their third straight loss, 9-6, at Nationals Park.
“I think just missing some spots as much as anything,” manager Don Mattingly said of Smith’s outing. “Just missed, and a team like they have over there, they’re gonna make you pay.”
Trailing 1-0 after Howie Kendrick’s homer in the second, Smith retired the first two batters in the third before Adam Eaton doubled. After an intentional walk to Anthony Rendon, Smith got ahead of Juan Soto 1-2 before throwing three straight balls, the last one a borderline slider.
“That one was close. It looked like the ball was in the middle of the plate, just a little bit down. That one would have helped,” Mattingly said.
“I thought I had him, but I didn’t,” added Smith.
Kendrick followed with a two-run single and Brian Dozier added a two-run double.
Smith (3-2) turned in his shortest start of the season, allowing a season-high five runs on five hits and two walks over three innings as his ERA climbed from 2.38 to 3.05. Smith had allowed two earned runs or fewer in eight of his nine previous starts.
He had one strikeout and saw his streak of nine consecutive starts with six or more strikeouts ended.
“Physically I felt fine,” he said. “I didn’t think I had command of any of my pitches really. Fastball, left over the middle. Wasn’t able to throw my secondary pitches for strikes when I needed to and they capitalized on it.”
Wei-Yin Chen came on and pitched two scoreless innings but, after a brief rain delay, gave up four runs in the sixth.
“I think that rain delay may have hurt him a little bit,” Mattingly said. “That little 30-minute delay there in the middle of that wasn’t great. He said he felt good, but then we give up those runs, that hurt us.”
Meanwhile, after being shut out by Patrick Corbin on Saturday, the Marlins were handcuffed by Washington starter Erick Fedde (1-0) for five innings before breaking through late against the Nationals’ bullpen.
“I’m sure it gives the guys a little better feeling to put some runs on the board,” Mattingly said. “We got some hits to at least make it look better but honestly it probably wasn’t as close as it looked.
“I guess the only good thing is we’re able to force them to use more bullpen and force them to get their closer up.”
“I thought it was a really good chance to take third there,” Rojas said. “I feel like Rendon was towards the hole a little bit more. I thought I could beat him to the bag. It takes like a perfect throw and a perfect tag to get you out there.”
Granderson then drew a walk, Ramirez doubled and Anderson was walked intentionally before Walker struck out to end the inning.
“Probably not the right play for us,” Mattingly said of the steal attempt. “Miggy’s on his own there, but he’s in scoring position. We always talk about, if you’re going to third, it’s gotta be 100 percent. If it’s not 100 percent, we shouldn’t really be running.”