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Unable to cash in late, Nationals fall in 10th

After tying game, offense can't pull ahead in eighth and bullpen falters

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals may have reached their low point of the season. The Marlins scored four runs in the top of the 10th inning and defeated the Nationals, 8-5, at Nationals Park on Wednesday night. The Nationals have lost six of their last seven games and are now two games under .500 with a 25-27 record.

One would think morale is pretty low in Washington's locker room, but manager Matt Williams begs to differ.

"It's never easy to lose. This stretch has been a tough one," Williams said. "But the attitude is there and it's good. … I'm happy about that. Unfortunately, we are in the results business, so if the results are not what we wanted it to be, it's not a good thing. But I'm proud of the way [the players] have continued to hang in there and battle. It didn't happen tonight for us."

It didn't happen for the Nationals because the bullpen had a tough time in the 10th inning. The game was tied at 4 when Miami batted around and scored four runs. Left-hander Jerry Blevins started the inning and had a tough time getting outs. By the time he left the game, Miami had the bases loaded with one out.

Then came right-hander Aaron Barrett, who allowed an RBI single to Casey McGehee. Reed Johnson followed and hit a two-run double. Two batters later, Donovan Solano singled to drive in a run and make it a four-run game.

"I've been put in those spots all year. It's a tough one to swallow because I shoot for perfection," Barrett said. "I know I'm not going to be perfect, but at the same time, it's my job to [leave those runners on base] and give our team a chance to win. I didn't do the job tonight."

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann started for Washington and was solid for the first three innings, retiring seven consecutive batters at one point, but he lost focus an inning later as the Marlins scored four runs. Garrett Jones, Marcell Ozuna and Adeiny Hechavarria had RBI singles, while Jayson Werth's throwing error allowed Ozuna to score the fourth run of the game. Three of the four runs were charged to Zimmermann.

Zimmermann was done after five innings, because Williams was trying to get back in the game when Zimmermann's at-bat came up in bottom of the fifth. In his last four starts, Zimmermann has allowed 15 earned runs in 22 2/3 innings and seen his ERA go up to 4.07. Is there any cause for concern? The answer is no, according to Williams.

"The ball is up in the zone a little bit. That's what I can see," Williams said. "[Zimmermann] is aggressive, he is throwing strikes. He is not walking a bunch of people. They put together some nice at-bats. If anything, the pitches were elevated."

Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez was strong, pitching five shutout innings and allowing five hits. But he exited the game because of right elbow stiffness.

Once Alvarez left the game because of the injury, the Nationals made it interesting by scoring three runs in the sixth inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Nate McLouth doubled to right field against reliever Chris Hatcher, scoring Adam LaRoche and Wilson Ramos.

Hatcher exited the game in favor of left-hander Dan Jennings, who walked pinch-hitter Danny Espinosa to reload the bases. Denard Span came to the plate and hit a grounder to Jones at first base, and he threw the ball past Jennings, who was covering first, for an error, allowing Ian Desmond to score. Anthony Rendon then hit a deep fly ball to right field that was caught by Giancarlo Stanton to end the threat.

An inning later, with the count 2-0, Wilson Ramos connected for his first home run of the season -- a shot against right-hander A.J. Ramos.

But the Nationals had a chance to take the lead in the eighth inning off left-hander Mike Dunn. Washington had the bases loaded with no outs, but the Nats couldn't get a run across. Rendon struck out, while Werth popped up and LaRoche grounded out to end the threat. The trio saw 20 pitches combined during those at-bats.

"With Rendon, Werth and LaRoche, those are the three guys I would want every time," said McLouth, who had his best game as a member of the Nationals by going 4-for-4. "They put some really good at-bats [together], but they weren't able to come through."

The Nationals ended up going 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

"It's frustrating. Everybody is frustrated by it, but there is nothing we can do about it now except prepare for Friday," Williams said. "If you had a chance like we had -- bases loaded, nobody out -- you want to score that run. It didn't happen tonight, so we keep pushing, keep playing hard. They battled back, tied it, just couldn't get it done."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Jordan Zimmermann