Postgame analysis of the Nationals' 5-1 loss to the Miami Marlins in the series finale on Sunday afternoon.
How it happened: Jose Fernandez has been a tough adversary for the Nationals throughout his career and on Sunday he hurt them both on the mound and at the plate. The Marlins right-hander was mostly dominant through seven innings of one-run ball. He struck out 11 batters and allowed just four hits, one of them an inside-the-park homer to Ryan Zimmerman that wasn't really his fault.
In his first outing against the Nats this season Fernandez was effectively wild, but this time he was just plain good, working both sides of the plate with his high-90s fastball and razor-sharp curveball. Zimmerman, Clint Robinson and Wilson Ramos all struck out twice against Fernandez. He held the Nats' top three batters - Ben Revere, Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper - all hitless.
Nationals starter Joe Ross, on the other hand, did not have his best day. He allowed a homer to Giancarlo Stanton and a two-RBI single to Fernandez. The Marlins beat the Nats 5-1 to earn a series split. The Nats still hold a 5-4 edge in the season series.
What it means: The Nationals have lost two straight games - with just two runs scored in those contests - heading into their off-day with a big series at the Mets awaiting them on Tuesday. Two games is no cause for concern, but they will certainly look to turn things around against the Mets in their first matchup with the reigning division champions this season.
Drew's costly error: Stephen Drew didn't help Ross' cause in the third inning as he lost a Martin Prado pop-up in the sun with a runners on second and third. Prado reached on the error and both runners scored, putting Ross down in a 2-0 hole with both runs going down as unearned.
Ross struggles again: Ross cruised through the first two innings and rebounded nicely from the two runs allowed on Drew's error with scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth. But in the sixth he ran into trouble with three earned runs. The first came on Stanton's homer, a solo shot that landed in the bullpen in right field. Ross has now allowed homers in consecutive games after giving up zero through his first five starts. After the Stanton homer, Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto notched back-to-back singles. That convinced the Nats to intentionally walk Adeiny Hechavarria to load the bases with one out to face Fernandez. It was a mistake. Fernandez singled to center field to score two runs and give himself a comfortable 5-1 lead. Ross has now allowed eight earned runs in his last two starts across 11 2/3 innings, which equates to a 6.17 ERA. He had a 1.23 ERA in his first five outings (4 ER in 29.1 IP).
Zimmerman's inside-the-park homer: The Nationals would also benefit from a defensive mishap as a collision by Stanton and Ozuna in right-center allowed the Nats first baseman to notch his first career inside-the-park homer in the fourth inning. Zimmerman hit a long flyball that saw Stanton and Ozuna run into each other at the warning track. It was a scary moment, as both players lay motionless on the ground for several moments as manager Don Mattingly and a trainer rushed to their aid. They both, though, were able to stay in the game. It was the second inside-the-park homer in the majors this season following the one hit by Jean Segura of the Diamondbacks on April 7 against the Cubs. It was just the third in Nats history, as Willie Harris had one in 2010 and Austin Kearns accomplished the feat in 2007. There have been 26 inside-the-park homers in franchise history dating back to the Expos.
What's next: The Nationals have Monday off before heading up to Citi Field on Tuesday for their first matchup with the New York Mets of 2016. The Mets are the reigning division and NL champs and will provide a good test for the Nats. The opener will have quite the pitching matchup with Max Scherzer going up against Noah Syndergaard. Scherzer is coming off his 20-strikeout performance and Syndergaard is off to a terrific start with a 2.53 ERA.