Postgame analysis of the Nats' 1-0 loss to the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night at Nationals Park.
How it happened: Little separates the very good pitchers from the absolute best of the best, especially these days when sub-3.00 ERAs are commonplace, when guys like Tanner Roark can hold a 2.70 ERA in late September and still be a relative longshot in the Cy Young race.
Roark is very, very good. One could argue he's been the most indispensable pitcher on the Nationals' staff this year. But better pitchers exist and one of the few was on display Tuesday night at Marlins Park in a classic duel decided by one sole swing of the bat.
Jose Fernandez and Roark locked horns in one of the best pitching matchups of the 2016 season and each brought all they can offer to the mound. It was Fernandez who came out on top with eight shutout innings. That barely edged Roark's seven frames with one run allowed, but it was enough to give the Marlins a 1-0 victory.
Roark's lone mistake was a solo homer allowed to Giancarlo Stanton in the bottom of the sixth. Stanton took a 93 mile per hour two-seam fastball - Roark's bread-and-butter pitch - and sent it over the fence in right field for an opposite field bomb. It was Stanton's second homer in as many nights against the Nationals.
Roark, like Fernandez, only allowed three hits. He was pulled after 86 pitches, but did reach seven innings and passed the 200-innings pitched mark for the first time in his career.
They both allowed three hits, but Fernandez issued zero walks to go along with 12 strikeouts. Roark had three walks and five Ks.
The Nats fell to 7-8 in their season series vs. the Marlins. They have lost four straight games overall and five of their last seven.
What it means: The Nats dropped to 88-63 on the year and saw their magic number to win the division remain at five.
Harper keeps struggling: There was a lot of talk earlier in the day about Bryce Harper's health, as Sports Illustrated added some details to their August report that he has a right shoulder injury, a story the Nats strongly denied at the time. The team insisted to reporters in Miami that Harper is fine, but he didn't exactly do anything on Tuesday to prove them right. Harper flew out three times in his first three at-bats, then struck out looking against Marlins reliever David Phelps for the second out of the top of the ninth. He is now just 1-for-23 in his last nine games.
Drew doubles: The Nats got just one hit off Fernandez through the first 7 1/3 innings on Tuesday night and that was a double by Stephen Drew. It was Drew's first extra-base hit since coming back from his vertigo-like symptoms earlier this month. He had previous played in nine games with three singles and two walks in 12 plate appearances. Before he went down, he could be counted on for power off the bench. If that is starting to come back, it's a great sign for the Nats.
Ramos is showing life: Ramos began the month of September just 4-for-28 in his first eight games. But in his seven outings since, the Nats catcher has turned a corner. With his single on Tuesday, Ramos is now 8-for-23 (.348) since Sept. 12. It's a small sample size, but it's a marked improvement from where he was just over a week ago.
Up next: The Nats and Marlins close their series with a 7:10 p.m. start on Wednesday night. Ace Max Scherzer (17-7, 2.78) will try to be the Nats' stopper with right-hander Tom Koehler (9-11, 3.96) set to pitch for Miami.
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