AME IN A NUTSHELL: Losers of four straight and in danger of a sweep in Miami, the Nationals desperately needed a good, all-around performance this afternoon. They're still searching for one after another poorly played ballgame, in every facet.
On the mound, Gio Gonzalez was roughed up for six runs over five erratic innings. In the field, the Nats botched a routine rundown play that set the stage for Adeiny Hechavarria's game-changing, 3-run triple in the fourth. And at the plate, this struggling lineup was held in check by old friend Dan Haren and his high-80s fastball.
The end result was a fifth straight loss and more reason to be concerned about this team's overall status. At 7-12, the Nationals have one of the worst records in baseball, a fact that seemed virtually implausible not long ago. And at the moment, they're not doing anything particularly well.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: The Nationals know Haren all too well, so they had to know what they were going to get against their old teammate today: Lots of soft stuff. Yet that familiarity didn't do a whole lot for their cause: Haren allowed only two runs on three hits over five innings. The biggest outs: Strikeouts of both Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth with two out and two on. Each was caught looking at a fastball — the pitch to Desmond appeared to be outside, but the pitch to Werth (87 mph) was right down the pipe. On a day when the Nats needed some big hits, they couldn't deliver.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: For 3-plus innings, Gonzalez was quite effective, if not necessarily efficient. He notched six strikeouts, the vast majority of them on perfectly placed changeups down and away to right-handed hitters. But as soon as his defense betrayed him, Gonzalez's day turned ugly. He served up the 3-run triple to Hechavarria, then served up two more three-baggers before his afternoon was over
FIELDING LOWLIGHT: The Nationals have committed more than their share of head-scratching defensive gaffes over the last three weeks, but this one ranks right up there with the worst of them. With runners on first and second in the bottom of the fourth, Ichiro Suzuki hit a slow roller to second. Danny Espinosa made the play, but his throw to first was late. Ryan Zimmerman, though, astutely noticed Giancarlo Stanton racing around third and threw the ball to the plate. So the Nats had Stanton dead to rights in a rundown. Except Wilson Ramos, chasing Stanton back toward third base, didn't throw the ball to Yunel Escobar, who was standing several steps in front of the bag and then moved out of the way. Ramos couldn't catch Stanton, and thus everybody was safe and in position to score moments later on Hechavarria's triple.
KEY STAT: Extrapolated over a 162-game season, Giancarlo Stanton's career stats against the Nationals would include 55 homers, 133 RBI and a 1.133 OPS.
UP NEXT: The road trip continues in Atlanta, where Doug Fister (1-0, 2.37) faces Braves lefty Eric Stults (0-1, 4.50) at 7:10 p.m. Monday.