GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals opened their final homestand of the season with a bit of extra hop in their step, having picked up 2 games on the Mets the last two days to draw within 7 1/2 games of the NL East leaders. That positive momentum, though, came to a screeching halt once they faced the surprisingly pesky Marlins, who continue to be a thorn in this team's side.
Martin Prado and Justin Bour hit home runs off Tanner Roark, whose late-season struggles since rejoining the Nationals' rotation continued. That more than offset Ian Desmond's 2-run homer in the bottom of the second, the lone hit the Nats managed their first five innings against Jarred Cosart.
The offense finally came to life late, via an eighth-inning rally that included a 2-out, 2-run single by Desmond to cut the deficit to 6-4. Moments later, Michael Taylor stepped to the plate with the bases loaded, but the rookie center fielder struck out on three breaking balls from Marlins closer A.J. Ramos, brought in to record a 4-out save.
And so the Nationals' 4-game winning streak came to an end while their magic number for elimination dropped into single digits. They now trail the Mets by 8 games with 16 to play.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Desmond provided all of the Nationals' offense in this one. He launched a 2-run homer off the top of the left-field wall in the bottom of the second, his first homer in 18 games (though his 18th of the season). He nearly produced another clutch hit with two on and two out in the sixth but sent a flyball to the warning track in right to end that inning. Then with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth, Desmond worked the count full against Bryan Morris before lining a base hit up the middle, bringing home two more runs. It was Desmond's first 4-RBI game since August 18.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: For whatever reason, Roark simply hasn't been the same pitcher this year, especially when given an opportunity to start. He has now made nine starts in 2015, posting a hefty 5.66 ERA along the way. Among Roark's biggest problems: a penchant to surrender the long ball. He gave up two of them tonight: Prado's 2-run homer in the first, then Bour's 3-run homer in the fifth. All told, that's 14 home runs given up by Roark in 93 1/3 innings this season. Compare that to last season, when he gave up 16 homers in 198 2/3 innings, and you start to see what the difference has been for the right-hander.
KEY STAT: The Marlins have gone 6-3 against the Nationals and Mets this month.
UP NEXT: The Nationals will have to go up against ace Jose Fernandez (5-0, 2.06) on Friday night. Max Scherzer (12-11, 2.91) will need to be in top form against Miami's lineup.
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