MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Nationals' offense still searching for spark

Struggles with runners in scoring position contribute to Friday's loss

Nationals' offense still searching for spark

MIAMI -- The Nationals continue to have problems scoring runs and it reared its ugly head during their 3-2 loss to the Marlins on Friday night.

For starters, the Nationals were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Their best chance to go ahead late in the game came in the seventh and eighth innings.

With the score tied at 2, the Nationals had runners on first and second with one out and right-hander A.J. Ramos on the mound. Dan Uggla came to the plate for Washington and struck out. Reed Johnson entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Jordan Zimmermann and he grounded out to end the threat.

Right-hander Bryan Morris was on the mound for Miami when the Nationals had runners on first and second with two outs, but Ryan Zimmerman grounded out to end the threat.

From the seventh inning on, the Nationals are 35-for-180 (.194) with three home runs and 13 RBIs this season.

"It's one of those games where we try to take an advantage of an opportunity. It didn't happen for us," manager Matt Williams said.

Bryce Harper was the hitting hero for the Nationals, going 2-for-2 and driving in both runs in the game. Harper believes in his team. He thinks the offense will come around soon.

Harper's sacrifice fly

"It's the latter innings. We can't get a guy in. [The Marlins] get a guy in. They win the ball game. We have to keep plugging along, keep doing what we need to do," Harper said. "If we keep plugging along and do what we need to do, our pitching is going to hold up, … we'll win ballgames. We just have to keep plugging along, keep playing and making sure we are having fun, too."

The Nationals' offense is expected to improve once third baseman Anthony Rendon is taken off the disabled list. He is on a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg and went 1-for-2 with a double in the Senators' 7-4 loss to Reading on Friday.

"With Anthony coming back, he is going to make a big difference in our lineup. He is such a tough out," Uggla said. "Hits the ball all over the field, hits for power, average."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.