WASHINGTON (AP) - The Nationals still couldn’t solve Jose Fernandez on Sunday afternoon, even after Ryan Zimmerman scored in the unlikeliest of ways.
Zimmerman hit his first career inside-the-park home run, and only his team’s third since it moved to Washington in 2005, but the Nationals fell 5-1 to the Marlins in the series finale.
“We’ve just got to stay positive and keep swinging the bat,” said Nationals manager Dusty Baker.
Fernandez (5-2) struck out 11 over seven innings and drove in two runs during a three-run sixth.
Giancarlo Stanton hit his 11th home run after surviving a scary outfield collision with Marcell Ozuna.
J.T. Realmuto singled three times and scored twice for the Marlins, who took a 2-0 lead on a Stephen Drew’s error. Drew was playing second for the Nationals after Daniel Murphy was scratched due to illness.
Murphy flew out to right as a pinch hitter in the ninth against A.J. Ramos, who recorded his 11th save.
“I think the doubleheader yesterday kind of got us all a little bit, and the skipper kind of took it out of my hands and gave me the day,” said Murphy, who leads the majors in batting with a .400 average. “And personally, I could use that.”
Nationals starter Joe Ross (3-3) allowed five runs - three earned - over 5 2/3 innings. He threw 106 pitches, his last a sinker that Fernandez dumped into left-center for an RBI single.
“I wouldn’t say it was a good pitch,” Ross said. “He hit a line drive to left field, so you’ve got to give him his credit, there’s not much else you can really say.”
Fernandez threw a career-high 117 pitches while allowing the one run on four hits and three walks.
He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings after his single gave Miami a four-run lead. The win runs his all-time record against Washington to 5-0 with a 1.09 ERA.
“It’s tough when you give Fernandez that kind of lead because he doesn’t need much help,” Baker said. “We just need to get some breaks. We were hitting the ball actually better than they were, even though we were striking out quite a bit.”
Fernandez’s only blemish came in the fourth, when Zimmerman drove a full-count curveball into the gap in right center.
As Stanton and Ozuna chased it, Stanton’s right ankle clipped Ozuna’s right thigh. Both tumbled onto the warning track, and Stanton crashed into the out-of-town scoreboard as the ball fell to the ground and Zimmerman scored easily.
It was the 26th inside-the-parker in Nationals/Expos franchise history.
Murphy will make his return to Citi Field as a visitor when the Nationals begin a three-game series at the New York Mets on Tuesday.
After helping the Mets to an NL East title and World Series appearance, he signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal with Washington this offseason.
“I built a lot of relationships with the guys there, it’ll be nice to see them and hopefully win some baseball games,” said Murphy, who didn’t want to guess how Mets fans would receive him.
Murphy was originally slated to hit fourth in the series finale. With his pinch-hit appearance, he has played in 37 of the Nationals 38 games, hitting five homers and driving in 23 runs.
Fresh off his historic 20-strikeout performance, RHP Max Scherzer (4-2, 4.15) will square off against Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard (3-2, 2.53) in the opener of a three-game set at Citi Field.
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