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Marlins' grade-A 'D' can't stop Nats


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MIAMI -- Defensively, the Marlins played arguably their best game, turning in a handful of spectacular plays. Offensively, they showed they can rally from three runs down to pull ahead.

While they did a number of things right on Friday night, the pitching ultimately faltered, and the Nationals capitalized.

 

Nick Johnson's two-out, three-run homer in the seventh inning proved the difference as Washington upended the Marlins, 6-4, at Dolphin Stadium.

 

Along with snapping a three-game losing streak, the Nationals took the first game from Florida after being swept a week ago in three games in Washington.

 

Complicating matters, the offense was limited to five hits. A night after striking out 16 times, the Marlins fanned 12 times on Friday.

 

Some big defensive players kept the Marlins in it, until the Nationals rallied in the seventh.

 

"We played good defensive ball," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But we didn't swing the bats. We had five hits."

 

After falling behind by three in the first inning, the Marlins pulled ahead, 4-3, in the sixth inning on Jeremy Hermida's two-out RBI single to right, followed by Josh Willingham's two-run homer to left.

 

Washington right-hander Tim Redding, who struck out 10 in six innings, held the Marlins without a baserunner until Hanley Ramirez walked to open the fourth. Two batters later, Hermida's RBI double put Florida on the board, and ended a stretch 13 scoreless innings.

 

A year ago, the Marlins led the Major Leagues in strikeouts.

 

"We're always working on that with those guys," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes, it's the club. It's just one of those things. We're a better hitting club than we showed the last couple of days. It's a matter of getting the bats rolling again."

 

Andrew Miller's command issues surfaced immediately, but the left-hander escaped a rough first inning and settled for a no-decision.

 

In the first inning, the 22-year-old yielded three runs, walking two. He threw 34 total pitches, with 20 being out of the strike zone. Felipe Lopez ripped a 2-1 fastball into the right-center-field gap for a double. Back-to-back walks to Cristian Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman loaded the bases.

 

Johnson's sacrifice fly opened the scoring, and Lastings Milledge lined a full-count fastball into right field for an RBI single. Austin Kearns' groundout to third made it 3-0.

 

The Marlins are maintaining patience with Miller, a former first-round Draft pick who has tremendous upside.

 

Getting through some early rough spots has become an issue in his first four starts. Miller says he likely will change his pregame warmups in the bullpen in hopes of starting off in a groove.

 

"I hope, the next time out, the first inning isn't bad, and I get into a groove right away," Miller said. "I think I'm going to approach warming up a little differently to take care of that. Yeah, it's definitely nice to have some confidence and get some outs in a row like that. But you just can't do that to start the game."

 

One change Miller is considering in the bullpen is working with the catcher on simulating game situations. An example would be having the catcher call balls and strikes, and having Miller go through different scenarios in his head.

 

"I've seen other guys doing certain things before, but next time I may go through batters in my head before I get into the game," he said. "To mentally kind of get that out of the way and to get into that mind frame. Something wasn't right out there, I was out of rhythm to start the game."

 

In the seventh inning, the Nationals loaded the bases off reliever Justin Miller. Still, the Marlins preserved a 4-3 lead when third baseman Wes Helms made a barehanded play on Zimmerman's slow roller. Helms threw out Wil Nieves at the plate. But Johnson, on a full-count offering from lefty Taylor Tankersley, cleared the bases with a double to right.

"The deal is everybody did their job to win the game tonight except me," Tankersley said. "I didn't do my job, and I cost us a win."

 

To his credit, Andrew Miller battled on after a rough start, and he strung together four straight scoreless frames. Florida's defense stepped up with some big plays, including the final out of the fifth, which prevented a run. On Zimmerman's double to right-center, Alfredo Amezaga made a strong throw to second baseman Dan Uggla. The relay to the plate just got Guzman, who was called out on a bang-bang play that was disputed by Nationals manager Manny Acta.

 

"That's a good trait about Andrew," Gonzalez said. "He battles. He doesn't give in. He doesn't fold the tent. We were trying to get him through six innings, one batter at a time there.

 

"As far with Andrew, you see improvement. You see his confidence level still there. I think it's encouraging, the second through fifth innings."

 

Ahhhhhhhh.... editing!

 

mlb.com

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