The Marlins can play the role of spoiler while also boosting their chances for a winning season. In order to do so, they will have to execute better than they did in the series opener. Miami was unable to complete a pickoff play and had an error on a night Washington slapped out 11 hits.
"This team that we're playing, they're going to the playoffs," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "We've got to play perfect baseball. We can't give them extra outs. We've got to score runs when we can. We weren't able to do that."
Brad Hand was perfect through three innings before the game got away from him in the fourth, when Washington used five straight two-out hits to claim a 5-1 lead.
On a night that was shaping up so nicely, Hand ended up exiting after five innings, allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits with four strikeouts.
"I left some pitches up where they could get the bat to it when I was ahead in the count," Hand said. "Other than that, the balls were just finding the right spot."
Given ample run support, Gio Gonzalez cruised through seven innings. The lefty struck out five and allowed two runs.
"He's pitched really well against us the last couple of games, no doubt," Redmond said. "We got on him early, and that was about it. We weren't able to get a whole lot going all night."
Gonzalez, from nearby Hialeah, was pitching in front of a number of friends and family members.
"I think that whole section [behind the on-deck circle] was bought out," Gonzalez said. "A lot of that came from my back pocket. It's one of those things that you don't mind pulling out the AmEx card for."
The quick-strike ability of the Nationals was demonstrated in the fourth inning. With one out, Anthony Rendon singled. Hand struck out Jayson Werth for the second out and actually had Rendon picked off, but the throw from first baseman Jeff Baker to shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria sailed into the outfield. It was ruled a stolen base.
The damage was done right after, as Wilson Ramos ripped an RBI double, Ian Desmond had a run-scoring single, Bryce Harper singled and Asdrubal Cabrera collected an RBI single. Capping the big inning was Kevin Frandsen's two-run single.
"You've just got to mix it up against them and keep the ball down," Hand said. "I left some pitches up and they got the bat to the ball."
Thursday opened Miami's final homestand, and it was the first time the team has seen All-Star Giancarlo Stanton since he was struck on the face by a pitch on Sept. 11.
Before taking the field, Stanton saw his teammates, which created an emotional scene.
"He's a huge part of this team and a huge part of this clubhouse," Redmond said. "Emotionally, it was really tough for us to see him get hurt the way he did, and for his season to end the way it did. But it's great to see him. I know all the guys were fired up to get a chance to talk to him."
Miami initially took the lead with a run in the second on Reed Johnson's RBI double. In the sixth, Baker had an infield run-scoring single. But the club finished with six hits, and left four on base.
"It was just one of those nights," Redmond said.