Marlins' HRs deal a blow to Nats' playoff hopes

Marlins' HRs deal a blow to Nats' playoff hopes

WASHINGTON -- Justin Bour's mammoth three-run blast in the fifth inning Thursday night was as much a pad to Miami's slim lead as it was a blow to Washington's playoff hopes. With the 6-4 defeat at Nationals Park, Washington's deficit in the National League East climbed to eight games behind the first-place Mets with 16 to play. The loss also snapped the Nationals' four-game winning streak.

"I don't think any momentum is lost," said Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond. "We played a good game, we had an opportunity to tie it up in the eighth [inning]. ... Obviously, we want to win them all at this point, but we weren't able to tonight. We have another opportunity to go out and get a 'W' [Friday]."

Marlins starter Jarred Cosart allowed two runs or fewer in his third straight start, surrendering only a two-run Desmond home run over his six innings of work. He improved to 2-4 on the season.

"It's big," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said. "The starting pitching, as we say, sets the tone. It's great to see Cosy back throwing the ball the way he's capable of. I thought he had some tremendous use of his fastball tonight."

The Nationals cut Miami's lead in half with Desmond's two-run single in the eighth inning, but closer A.J. Ramos entered with two outs and fed Michael Taylor three sliders to strike the rookie out and strand the bases loaded.

"Get the ball down and get out of the situation," Ramos said. "These guys have come in for me when I had the bases loaded, they always pick me up. So, I just think about picking up the guys and stopping the momentum right there, because that is a big inning. If they get another run there, it builds momentum and it's even tougher to get them out the next inning."

Any combination of Nationals losses and Mets wins that add up to nine will officially eliminate Washington from the NL East race.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
More by Bour: The Marlins had seized a 3-2 lead earlier in the fifth inning on Dee Gordon's sacrifice fly when Bour stepped to the plate with two outs and two runners on. Bour padded the advantage with a monster shot to right field, estimated to land 419 feet away per Statcast™, on a 94-mph Tanner Roark fastball. Twenty-two percent of Bour's 18 home runs this season have come against the Nationals, despite only 11 percent of his at-bats coming against Washington pitchers. More >

Bour's three-run homer

"Wow. That was huge," Jennings said. "To be able to put that three-run shot up there in that inning, it was tremendous. ... He just keeps swinging the bat. He's making the most of his opportunity. It's great to see him drive the ball like that."

Werth extends streak: Jayson Werth drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the second inning to extend his on-base streak to 26 straight games, tying his career high. Werth scored two batters later as Desmond delivered a game-tying two-run homer over the left-field fence. It was Desmond's 18th home run of the season.

"When my swing feels good, it doesn't matter who's on base, I have confidence in what I do," said Desmond, who went 2-for-4 with a homer and matched his season high with four RBIs. "I felt confident and I look forward to getting back out there tomorrow."

Nats rally falls short: Desmond delivered again in the eighth inning with two outs and the bases loaded. Desmond worked a full count against Marlins reliever Bryan Morris before coming through with a two-run single up the middle. Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper scored on the play as the Nationals cut the lead to 6-4. Wilson Ramos then drew a walk, but the rally ended with the bases loaded as Ramos struck out Taylor.

Desmond's two-run single

Cosart continues to improve: Thursday night marked Cosart's 11th Major League start this season and the first that lasted at least six innings since April 27. He was harmed by a high pitch count (105), but was effective. Since being recalled on Sept. 4, Cosart is 1-0 with 2.30 ERA in four starts.

Cosart's strong outing

"Just trying to focus on execution and attacking the game plan," Cosart said. "I think as a whole staff, we've developed a pretty good game plan against a really good lineup, both in them and the Mets the last couple series. We've been seeing a lot of them."

QUOTABLE
"Those two-out hits get you to heaven. They're sweet." -- Jennings, on the three two-out hits in the fifth inning that resulted in three runs

"It's been a crazy year, I'm not going to lie. But you can't put the blame on anybody but myself. It's my job, whenever my name is called, to go out there and get outs. I'm not one for making excuses and I never will. Ultimately it's me on the mound." -- Roark, on a season in which he has battled inconsistency while shuffling between the Nationals' bullpen and starting rotation More >

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Martin Prado cranked his ninth home run of the season with one out in the first inning, but the umpires went to instant replay to see if a fan interfered before the ball left Nationals Park. The original home run call was confirmed and the Marlins were out to a 2-0 lead.

Prado's two-run shot

Werth singled to right field with one on and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning on a play that saw Harper go from first base to third. Harper was originally called out at third after a throw from right fielder Marcell Ozuna. The Nationals challenged the ruling, which was overturned, but they were unable to cash in, despite having runners on the corners.

Harper advances to third

WHAT'S NEXT
Marlins: Jose Fernandez will make his ninth start of the season on Friday when the Marlins and Nats meet for the second game of a four-game set at Nationals Park at 7:05 p.m. ET. Fernandez (5-0, 2.06 ERA) tossed five shutout innings and struck out seven against Washington in Miami on Saturday.

Nationals: The Nationals counter with Max Scherzer (12-11, 2.91 ERA), who starts against the Marlins for the second straight outing. On Sunday in Miami, Scherzer threw eight scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks in the Nationals' 5-0 win. It marked Scherzer's first win since July 30, which also came against the Marlins.

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Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Ben Raby is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.