- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2014

The ball screamed through the air and center fielder Denard Span turned and chased out of obligation and courtesy more than expectation.

It whistled over the center field wall, 402 feet away from home plate, and smacked with a thud high against the garage that houses the grounds crew’s equipment at Nationals Park.

A few more feet and Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton would have put the ball onto the terrace under the giant HD scoreboard and sent a dozen fans scurrying for cover. Few places in any ballpark in the country are out of reach for him.

That Stanton home run, all 447 feet of it, proved the difference in a Memorial Day matinee. The two-run shot helped Miami to a 3-2 victory over the skidding Nats, who have lost seven of their last 10 games.

“Mistakes get hit hard,” Washington starting pitcher Tanner Roark said. “Especially with him.”

Adam LaRoche, fresh off the disabled list on Sunday, gave Washington hope with his two-run homer into the second deck in right field in the sixth inning. That cut the Marlins’ lead to 3-2. At the time, the Nats had just one hit against Miami starter Nate Eovaldi. Jayson Werth preceded LaRoche with a single to center.

But that wasn’t enough for Roark, who again gave his team a chance to win. A Stanton double in the first inning set up an RBI single from teammate Casey McGehee. Roark hit Derek Dietrich with a pitch just before Stanton’s monster homer, his 15th of the season.

Tanner certainly didn’t wanna throw it there, and that’s what happens sometimes with him,” Washington manager Matt Williams said. “If you hang that breaking ball out over the plate, sometimes it gets whacked. And it got whacked today.”

Meanwhile, the Nats (25-26) managed just three hits. They did get other runners on base — two on hit by pitches and another via a walk and one more by error — but they couldn’t take advantage of their limited opportunities. Eovaldi pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed just those three hits. He walked one batter and struck out five.

Washington has lost six of its last eight games, five of those contests by a single run. Over a longer stretch dating to May 10, the Nats have lost 10 of 16 games with nine of them by two runs or less.

“It’s hard losing games by one run,” Washington catcher Wilson Ramos said. “That’s too many games. That happen in baseball. Working on that, make some adjustments and see what happens.”

But the difference on Monday? An offense that just hasn’t been able to produce consistently. LaRoche returned from the disabled list on Sunday (right quadriceps strain), but Ryan Zimmerman (broken right thumb) and Bryce Harper (torn left thumb ligaments) remain out.

“We didn’t give ourselves a lot of opportunities,” LaRoche said. “Not sloppy. We didn’t beat ourselves in any way. But we just weren’t on base enough so frustrating loss.”

And Stanton’s blast put the game just out of reach as Miami’s bullpen tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Washington managed just one baserunner against Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos and Steve Cishek — a hit batter.

Stanton was 3-for-4 with that double and homer. He has routinely torched Washington pitchers. Roark pitched seven innings and allowed just five hits with a walk and four strikeouts. But it was the Stanton homer that proved costly.

“You still have to give some credit, but you have to go out there and be aggressive and not be scared,” Roark said. “You definitely can’t be scared. Just attack him.”

In his career at Nationals Park, Stanton is now 43-for-129 (.333 batting average) with 14 doubles and 14 homers. He also has 27 RBI and 23 runs scored. Roark left a slider hanging over the plate and one of baseball’s premier power hitters did what he does best.

“It happens in baseball. Some things you can’t explain like that,” Stanton said. “It’s just good it worked out today. I understand that I do a little better here, but you can’t really attest it to anything.”

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