- - Monday, June 25, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. | It was the worst of all possible scenarios that transpired against the Nationals on Monday night indoors at Tropicana Field as a storm swirled outside at game time.

The team had its Sunday home game moved to 8:05 p.m. to suit ESPN, then a rain delay against the Phillies meant the Nationals didn’t arrive in Florida until around 5 a.m.Monday.

Then the division favorites had to content with talented lefty Blake Snell, who held Washington to no runs and one hit in seven innings in an 11-0 thumping by the Rays over the Nationals. Snell improved to 10-4 with a stellar ERA of 2.31 after the interleague showdown.

Washington manager Dave Martinez wasn’t buying any of the excuses after a rough outing by Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, who was lifted in the second inning.

“We were a little tired. We had all day to rest. If Gio would have kept us in the ballgame it would have been a different game,” Martinez said.

It was the second lopsided loss in four days for the Nationals, who fell 12-2 to the Phillies on Friday. The loss Monday was the worst of the season for Washington, which has now dropped its last four away from Nationals Park.

But the setback was only part of the frustration for Gonzalez.

The veteran lefty, who grew up in Florida, lost his third straight start and has not picked up a win since May 28 at Baltimore.

Making matters worse was that the bullpen had to record 21 outs after Gonzalez (6-5, 3.68 ERA) could not retire a batter in the second inning. He ended up allowing three hits, five walks and six runs while throwing 62 pitches — including 43 in the second.

“It was not my night,” said Gonzalez, who said he is healthy. “Sometimes it happens. The unfortunate part is taxing on the bullpen. That (stinks) as a starter. You feel for them. That is unfortunate. That is the part, for me, that kills me the most.”

The Nationals (41-36) entered Monday three games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East.

Tampa Bay catcher Wilson Ramos, a former Nationals All-Star, hit two homers and the Rays hit three all told as Washington has lost eight of 12 overall.

The Nationals had just two hits and their batting average fell to .252.

Catcher Pedro Severino, a former backup to Ramos, was 0-for-3 and is hitting .174.

Right fielder Bryce Harper (.217) was 0-for-2 with a walk and was replaced by Brian Goodwin when things got out of hand.

“Gio goes out there and doesn’t throw strikes,” Martinez said. “We had to get him out; he threw so many pitches in the second inning. Health-wise he is fine. Early on in the season, he was attacking the strike zone. It seems like the last couple of outings that has gone by the wayside.”

The series ends at 12:10 p.m. Tuesday with Max Scherzer aiming for his 11th win for the Nationals. Washington is then off Wednesday and begins a four-game series Thursday in Philadelphia, which took two of three from the Nationals last weekend.

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