MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. | Judging by the sound the balls were making off the Florida Marlins’ bats through the first six innings Tuesday night, it seemed impossible that when the first pitcher was being pulled from the game it wasn’t Jason Marquis.
Marquis produced 19 loud, but effective outs as the fourth straight Nationals starting pitcher to turn in a solid, if not excellent, outing — and the third to come away with either a loss or a no-decision.
The efforts of the entire pitching staff — which held the Marlins to 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position — went for naught when Donnie Murphy’s single with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning brought home the 3-2 win for the Marlins and dropped the Nationals to 1-3 on the young season.
“I was just trying to pull a Houdini act and get out of there somehow, someway,” said reliever Sean Burnett, who stepped into a no-win situation with no outs and the bases loaded after a costly error in shallow right field by Jayson Werth began the inning and was followed by a wild pitch from Drew Storen, an intentional walk and a single by Gaby Sanchez.
It was the fourth straight game a Nationals starter has given up two earned runs or less. Through the first four games of the season, the Nationals starting pitchers have turned in 23.2 innings of work with an impressive 2.71 ERA and walked just four batters.
Yet all they have to show for it is a 1-2 record, the lone win going to John Lannan — who needed to come back after a 55-minute rain delay on Saturday to ensure himself of the mark.
The Nationals pounded out eight hits on the Marlins pitching Tuesday night — including seven against right-hander Anibal Sanchez who had a fantastic track record against them heading in. They forced Sanchez from the game after just 5 2/3 innings at 105 pitches but left 12 men on base and were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
In 37 innings of baseball this season, the Nationals have scored just 10 runs.
“I’m excited about a lot of things that happened in that ballgame,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “We got a lot of base runners out there and if we keep putting them out there we’re going to get them in.”
“I look at the glass as half full,” he added. “I’m encouraged by those starts that we got (from our pitchers).”
But just as Jordan Zimmermann was betrayed by the defense behind him in Sunday‘s 11-3 loss to the Braves, the Nationals made two costly errors Tuesday night, one on the base paths and one in the field.
The first fell on the shoulders of their third base coach, Bo Porter, who sent Jerry Hairston Jr. around from first on a double to left field by Werth in the top of the eighth inning, only to throw up the stop sign just after Hairston crossed third base, The utility man got stuck in a rundown and erased the Nationals best scoring threat after a first-inning RBI single by Michael Morse and a solo home run by Ryan Zimmerman in the third.
“A bad read on my part,” Porter said. “I picked it up late and it was too late when I tried to stop him… I was saying to myself, get out of here ball and hoping it was going to leave the yard. It ricocheted and I didn’t get a chance to stop him in time.”
The second rested squarely on Werth, who called off second baseman Danny Espinosa on a ball off the bat of Omar Infante to lead off the 10th and then simply didn’t make the catch. Infante represented not only the winning run but also the latest miscue for the Nationals — who said all spring they’d need to pay attention to detail in order to improve their record from the teams of their past.
“I feel bad for those kids,” Werth said. “They pitched great tonight. Drew pitched great, it was unfortunate. My fault. In that situation you want to be sure you get the out and my read wasn’t totally sure that (Espinosa) was going to get it. I called it, had a chance to catch it and I just didn’t. It really cost us the game.”
“We had our chances,” he added. “We’re not doing the little things right now to get us the win and that needs to change.”