Game in a nutshell: Retaking the field only 25 minutes after earning a 7-4 victory in the first half of this doubleheader, the Nationals had an opportunity to improve to 22 games over .500 for the first time since the franchise arrived in town and gain some ground on the Braves in the NL East. Instead, they were shut down by a dominant Josh Johnson, who went 8 23 innings and nearly went the distance, ultimately handing it off to Steve Cishek to record the final out. The Nationals' only runs came in the first and then the ninth. In between, they barely threatened against Johnson. Gio Gonzalez was equally as effective most of the night, but the left-hander was done in by a three-run sixth inning, which proved all the offense the Marlins needed to salvage a doubleheader split. The Nats' lead in the NL East is now down to two games.
Hitting lowlight: Remember when Danny Espinosa was on fire at the plate and appeared to have turned his entire season around? Well, he's fallen back into another slump, and the results haven't been pretty. He's now 3 for his last 37, with 17 strikeouts in the process. His 124 strikeouts for the season lead the NL. And it appears the loop in his left-handed swing has returned. The Nationals may need Espinosa to lead off down the stretch after Ian Desmond returns from the DL and bumps Steve Lombardozzi to the bench. But the way he's going at the plate right now, Davey Johnson might not be able to afford to do that.
Pitching highlight: If you look at the final numbers (four runs, nine hits) this doesn't look like a dominant start from Gonzalez. But the final numbers are misleading because three of the runs and five of the hits came in the sixth inning alone. Gonzalez was otherwise brilliant, striking out 10 without walking a batter and keeping his pitch count low enough that there was no question he would take the mound for the eighth inning for the first time this season. The night didn't end well for the lefty, though. After Jose Reyes scored from second base on a grounder to short, Gonzalez turned around and appeared to yell at Espinosa for not looking the runner back around third and preventing him from scoring. For a guy who is normally the consummate teammate, that was not a shining moment for Gonzalez.
Key stat: With a fifth-inning double, Michael Morse extended his hitting streak to 12 games. That's the longest of his career.
Up next: After what surely will be a good night's sleep, these two teams return to the park at 7:05 p.m. tomorrow. Jordan Zimmermann looks for his 20th quality start in 22 tries against Mark Buehrle, who dominated the Nationals in Miami last month.