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Fernandez K's 10, but bullpen letdown dooms Marlins

Righty allows three unearned runs; relievers give up three in eighth

MIAMI -- When in trouble, the Marlins often can turn to Jose Fernandez to help get them on track. The way Miami is playing lately, not even its 21-year-old sensation had the answer for the club's late-inning struggles.

Once again, the Nationals did serious damage off Miami relievers in the eighth inning.

Zach Walters belted a pinch-hit home run in the eighth, and Ian Desmond delivered a two-run single later in the inning to cap Washington's 6-3 comeback win over the Nationals on Wednesday night at Marlins Park.

Walters led off the eighth by going deep off Mike Dunn. The drive snapped a 3-3 deadlock. Desmond provided some insurance with a two-run single off A.J. Ramos.

A costly error by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia led to three unearned runs scoring for Washington in the sixth inning, and the bullpen has now allowed five home runs in the last eight games in the eighth inning or later.

"We're in a funk out there, for whatever reason," manager Mike Redmond said. "We just have got to keep throwing these guys out there and get them going. Another pinch-hit home run. Stuff like that just can't happen late in the game. We've given up a lot of big hits late in the game. Those are crushers. We've got to find a way to make an adjustment."

Jayson Werth provided a three-run homer off Fernandez in the sixth inning, and Washington took two of three in the series. Counting last week's sweep at Nationals Park, the Marlins are 1-5 against their division rivals this season.

For Miami, it was a wasted chance to collect a win while its ace was on the mound.

"I came out like I always do," Fernandez said. "I went out there and tried to do my job. Whatever happens to me personally, I don't think it's a big deal. This is a team, and I play for my team. I'm just trying to go out there and give my team a chance to win every day."

In the eighth inning this year, the Nationals have scored 15 runs, including grand slams a week ago from Werth and Desmond.

Meanwhile, Miami's bullpen has given up seven home runs in the seventh inning or later this season.

"To play at this level, you've got to be able to forget the past. Focus on the next game," Dunn said. "There is 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. You can't dwell in the past."

Walters came off the bench and homered in the eighth inning for the second straight night.

Against Dunn, Walters kept his long drive just fair down the left-field line.

"It was a terrible pitch, and he hit it," Dunn said. "Hanging slider."

Fernandez had his strongest outing of the season, but was not involved in the decision. The 21-year-old right-hander yielded a game-tying, three-run homer to Werth with two outs in the sixth.

Fernandez worked seven innings and posted a season-high 10 strikeouts, scattering four hits.

At Marlins Park in his career, Fernandez remains 11-0 at Marlins Park, and his ERA at home lowered to 1.07.

"He's an animal," Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Fernandez. "He's one of the best pitchers in all of baseball."

The Marlins were well-positioned for a while, after Derek Dietrich's three-run homer in the fourth inning off Roark. Also in the game, Christian Yelich's single in the seventh inning extended his career-high hitting streak to 11 games.

The Nationals responded in the sixth, and capitalized on catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia's throwing error to pull even on Werth's three-run homer.

Fernandez had allowed just one hit until the sixth when Jose Lobaton led off with double. Roark dropped a bunt, and Saltalamacchia attempted to try to throw out Lobaton at third. But the throw was wide, and Casey McGehee had no play.

"I think you have to get an out," Redmond said. "I think if he makes a good throw, he gets him. I thought he had him if he makes a good throw. He kind of yanked it a little bit."

Washington had runners on the corners with no outs, and still, Fernandez nearly worked out of it. He struck out Nate McLouth, and retired Rendon on a popup to second. The out came one pitch after Saltalamacchia was charged with his second error of the inning. Werth did the big damage with his opposite-field homer on a 96 mph fastball.

The home run was confirmed after a 22-second replay review.

"The guy's obviously got good stuff," Werth said. "I hit a ball hard my first at-bat. He started me off with a slider and he missed a spot back over the plate a little bit. It was elevated and I put a good swing on it, barreled up. I tell you this park's so big you really just don't know."

The pitch was pretty much the only mistake Fernandez made.

"It was an outside pitch," Fernandez said. "I checked to Salty, and I got beat. It's part of the game. I was trying to keep my team in the game. I had the lead. Obviously, not what I wanted to happen. But we learn from it."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro.
Read More: Miami Marlins, Derek Dietrich, Jose Fernandez