- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2012

At the end of the day, all they could really do was shrug their shoulders.

Almost seven hours after they’d first stepped on the field at Nationals Park on Friday afternoon, the Washington Nationals walked off it looking tired and worn out from a split of a doubleheader with the Miami Marlins.

They won the first game 7-4. They lost the second 5-2. Their lead in the National League East shrunk to two games.

John Lannan came up from the minor leagues to make his second doubleheader start of the season and pitched admirably for the second straight outing in the major leagues. The Nationals‘ offense supported his effort, and they tagged the Marlins for seven runs in the first four innings, though they were just able to keep them at bay for the win.

Gio Gonzalez was outstanding for seven of the eight innings he pitched in the nightcap. Josh Johnson was better.

“It’s a wash,” said first baseman Adam LaRoche. “It’s about where you move in the standings: you win one, you lose one. It could’ve been better, but we’re all still alive after that. We’ll get them tomorrow.”

They praised Lannan for his efforts, their 26th man overcoming a rocky first again to give them seven strong innings (three earned runs). Headlined by a 6-for-9 effort out of the middle of their lineup that featured two hits and two walks from Ryan Zimmerman, one hit and three walks from Jayson Werth and three hits (including his 21st home run of the season) from LaRoche, the Nationals did just enough to hold the Marlins off in the first game.

They then lamented their lack of offense for Gonzalez, who pitched one of his best games since the All-Star break (four earned, 10 strikeouts) but was singled to death in a five-hit sixth inning that gave the Marlins a 3-1 lead. They built on in it the eighth and ninth, perhaps most egregiously when Jose Reyes doubled with one out in the eighth and then scored on a routine ground out to shortstop.

“I got the ground balls that I wanted,” Gonzalez said. “Just, they found holes.”

Johnson allowed just six baserunners all evening and was poised to throw a complete game before Emilio Bonifacio committed an error, spraining his thumb on the play, to prolong the ninth.

“I thought [Gonzalez] pitched good enough to win,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who called the day “rough,” and noted that multiple players, as well as himself, were hit with a stomach bug during the day. Michael Morse didn’t play in the first game because of it.

“But anyway, it was all Josh Johnson really,” Johnson said. “He pitched a great ball game.”

The Nationals, who are in the midst of a stretch of 17 straight games against sub-.500 teams, have lost three of their last five games. As they digested a sweat-soaked marathon Friday night, there was plenty they could hope to have done better.

“Every day is important,” Johnson said, directing some frustration toward his team’s relaxed baserunning in the sixth inning of the opening game in which they had a double follow a single and failed to score.

“You don’t quit competing,” he added. “And you don’t let them dictate when they’re out of it because they’re going to keep competing. I’ll have a few discussions on why didn’t we run. Those are little things, but they can be big things. It’s the same way no matter who you’re playing you never take anything for granted. You’ve got to be at your best.”