- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

MIAMI | Nobody owns the Washington Nationals on a team level like the Florida Marlins. And nobody owns them on an individual level like Hanley Ramirez.

The Nationals have no answer for either, and so they were pretty much doomed to lose Tuesday night’s game at Land Shark Stadium one way or another.

Never mind that they held a four-run lead in the sixth inning. The deadly combination of Ramirez, the majors’ worst bullpen, the majors’ worst defense and the Marlins’ two-year-long domination of the Nationals ensured the outcome of this game.

Throw in a massive rainstorm that forced the game to be called in the bottom of the seventh - just after Florida had taken the lead - and the result was a 7-5 loss that was even more demoralizing than it sounded.

“It couldn’t have happened an inning before?” outfielder Adam Dunn wondered. “It’s like, what else can go wrong? I’m beginning to think the baseball gods really do hate us.”

A day that began with the first major trade of the Mike Rizzo era - Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan were shipped to Pittsburgh for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett - ended with a familiar outcome.

Washington’s pitching staff (with an assist from a defense that committed four errors) allowed six runs in 1 2/3 innings to squander a 5-1 lead, and Florida walked away with its ninth straight win over its NL East rivals and its 23rd in 26 head-to-head meetings since last season.

“We had a bunch of games that we have blown at the end of the game,” manager Manny Acta said. “We have played them better than what the record indicates. But over the last two years, they have flat-out just beat us, hands down.”

Ramirez, the biggest Nationals killer on a roster full of them, came through once again in the clutch. The dynamic shortstop blasted a two-run homer off rookie starter Craig Stammen in the sixth, then added a two-run single in the seventh off reliever Joe Beimel that gave the Marlins the lead for good.

In 60 career games against Washington, Ramirez is now batting .340 with 16 homers and 42 RBI.

“He doesn’t only have my number,” Acta said. “He has the other 28 clubs’ numbers. He’s just flat-out good. He’s one of the best players in the game.”

Jorge Cantu followed Ramirez’s single by driving in an insurance run and knocking Beimel (0-4) out of the game. But before Jesus Colome finished with the first batter he faced, the skies opened and everyone scurried for cover. After a 90-minute delay, crew chief Tim Welke ruled the game official and over, with the Marlins having taken the lead in the bottom half of an inning after the regulation five had been played.

“It’s equal opportunity,” Acta said. “If you’re afraid of the rain, you’ve got to be ahead when the rain comes down. We had the lead, and we blew it in the seventh. We have nothing to blame but ourselves.”

Stammen was superb for five innings, allowing only one unearned run (the result of two errors on one play by Ryan Zimmerman, who was charged with a third later in the game) on three hits without issuing a walk.

The pitcher even produced at the plate, drawing a two-out walk in his first appearance and then roping a bases-loaded single to center in the fourth for the first two RBI of his career.

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