MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. | One by one, the Nationals were sent back to their dugout shaking their heads.
Three of the first four, seven of the first nine and eventually 18 of Washington's first 20 batters would step in against Florida Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez and promptly would be sent out of the batters box. Eleven struck out, 10 swinging, and none was able to get a hit through the first six innings.
By the time Laynce Nix led off the seventh with a single to right field, the Marlins were ahead by six runs.
Instead of posting their second-ever sweep of the Marlins as the visiting team, the Nationals fell 8-0 and dropped their team batting average to .224. Sanchez improved to 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA against Washington.
"He was that good," said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman "He was outstanding and he's had our number. There's not much more to say about it... Good pitcher's don't always throw good against you but he seems to always throw good against us.
Sanchez hasn't been the only one doing a good job against the Nationals. Marlins pitchers racked up 13 strikeouts in the rout, giving them 38 in the three-game series.
In a season where many of the Nationals' first 16 victories have come almost in spite of their lack of offense, Sunday's high strikeout total was just another log on the fire. The Nationals have struck out at least 10 times in five of their past nine games.
Friday night they tied a team record with 17; The two days prior, Roy Halladay, Vance Worley and the Phillies' bullpen combined for 23 total - 12 on Thursday, 11 on Wednesday.
"We haven't hit well so far, and we've been striking out quite a bit," Nix said. "But we have a good lineup, we have good hitters and if guys are making us miss you've got to give them credit."
Sunday afternoon, Sanchez struck out 10 of the first 20 batters - nine swinging. The only two base runners through six innings came on an error by second baseman Omar Infante that allowed Nix to reach in the first inning and an 0-1 curveball that hit Danny Espinosa to lead off the third.
"Honestly, he was really good," said Jerry Hairston Jr., who struck out three times, twice against Sanchez. "I had a hard time seeing the ball today. I don't know what it was, maybe it was bright or something, I just couldn't pick up the ball. He's a good pitcher, man, there's a reason why he's thrown a no-hitter before.
The Marlins tagged Nationals pitching for 13 hits - first baseman Gaby Sanchez accounted for four, including a three-run homer off Livan Hernandez in the fifth.
Hernandez relies heavily on his sinker, which he left out over the plate on the home run to Sanchez, to get groundouts. It wasn't working Sunday.
"That was the only problem," he said. "The sinker just didn't break like it's supposed to break. It's tough, because that's the pitch I throw most of the time.
"[But] we won the series. That's baseball. We won two games here. We lost today because I pitched bad."
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