- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

MIAMI — Max Scherzer took a thumping against a makeshift Miami Marlins lineup and said he’ll learn from it quickly.

The Washington Nationals’ ace gave up five runs in five innings on Thursday to absorb his first loss of the year as the Marlins won, 5-1.

“I can take a punch on the chin and come right back out and keep fighting,” Scherzer said. “I’ve done it plenty of times in my career, and I understand what you have to do. You just have to own it, and for the next four days do your work so you can go out there and have success.”

Bryce Harper hit his eighth home run for his 22nd RBI, the most in the major leagues, but the Nationals (11-4) totaled only two hits and none after Wilson Ramos’ infield single to start the second.

Four Miami relievers combined to retire Washington in order in each of the final four innings.

“It was kind of a flat day,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “To me we were just a little bit sluggish.”

Scherzer (2-1) gave up eight hits, including a three-run home run to Marcell Ozuna. He walked two and struck out three, and his ERA climbed to 4.32.

He said he wasn’t fooling the hitters, but the problem wasn’t mechanical.

“The swing-and-misses aren’t there, and I feel like that’s a lack of me finishing pitches and coming up with the right sequence,” he said.

Ichiro Suzuki had two hits, scored twice and made two sliding catches for Miami (5-9). Suzuki, 42, batted leadoff for the first time this season and started in right field for a slumping Giancarlo Stanton, who was given the day off.

Also sitting out for the Marlins at the start of the series finale were Dee Gordon and J.T. Realmuto. The lineup shake-up produced four runs in the first two innings against Scherzer.

“Everyone on this team is a major leaguer, so everyone can play, and on any given day they’re just as good as anybody else,” winning pitcher Tom Koehler said. “I mean, Ichiro started. It’s not like we ran out there someone no one has heard of before.”

Suzuki helped to tire Scherzer by fouling off a total of seven two-strike pitches in his second and third trips to the plate.

“If I was a pitcher, I wouldn’t like that,” Suzuki said through a translator.

Miami improved to 2-7 at home and managed a split of the four-game series. Three of the Nationals‘ four losses have come against the Marlins.

Harper’s home run was only run allowed in five innings by Koehler (1-2). Harper has an RBI in eight consecutive games, a career best.

Suzuki hiked his average to .389 and had six putouts, including catches to rob Michael A. Taylor and Daniel Murphy. Murphy, the MLB batting leader, went 0-for-3 to drop his average to .404.

Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth took the day off for the Nationals, the leaders of the National League East, who went 4-3 on a seven-game trip. The Nationals begin a three-game series on Friday at home against the Minnesota Twins, with lefty Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 0.69 ERA) scheduled to start against righty Kyle Gibson (0-2, 3.57 ERA).

“I thought we played well, swung it well, pitched well, bullpen was great,” Harper said. “We had a long time on the road, and now we’re going back home and going to enjoy home for a couple days and worry about that.”


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