Nats left to lament missed chances vs. Marlins' ace

Nats left to lament missed chances vs. Marlins' ace

MIAMI -- The Nationals entered Monday's game with the best record in the Majors, but Monday would pose a different challenge. They had yet to face a starter the caliber of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez.

And while they had plenty of scoring chances against Fernandez, whom manager Dusty Baker described as "effectively wild," the Nationals could not take advantage, falling, 6-1, at Marlins Park.

Fernandez uncharacteristically struggled with his command early on. He issued four walks, hit a batter and threw a pair of wild pitches. But he also finished with nine strikeouts and was able to deliver one when he needed to get out of a jam.

"This guy, that's what he lives on," Baker said. "He lives on the strikeout."

Fernandez strands bases loaded

Fernandez held the Nationals without a hit for the first four innings, although Washington had numerous runners on base.

Michael Taylor led off the game with a walk before Fernandez retired the next three batters. In the second, the Nationals loaded the bases after Fernandez hit Jayson Werth with a pitch and issued a pair of walks (although one was intentional) before Fernandez struck Taylor out to end the damage. That got Fernandez's pitch count up to 54 through two innings and 69 through three, but the Nationals could not capitalize. Overall, they left 10 runners on base.

"We got his pitch count up, but he just made good pitches when he needed to," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "I had pitches to hit that I missed, and you can't really do that against a guy like that. ... You have to take advantage of every opportunity you get, and tonight he made pitches when he needed to."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.