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Marlins 6, Nats 2: Another misplay opens the floodgates

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Marlins 6, Nats 2: Another misplay opens the floodgates

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.

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Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The rain was heavy and relentless. As the puddles grew deeper on the tarp at Nationals Park, the Baltimore Orioles were left to wonder if their bid for a rare road victory would be thwarted by, of all things, the weather.

During a season in which very little has worked in their favor, the Orioles withstood a long rain delay to beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night.

Baltimore led 2-0 after four innings when play was stopped. After a wait of 2 hours, 43 minutes, the game resumed with a few hundred fans from the announced crowd of 32,153 sprinkled around the lower seating bowl.

Mark Trumbo homered for Baltimore, and Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hitter in a game that ended long after midnight.

"It was nice," Trumbo said. "I'm glad that we actually kept the game going. Had we not been able to, it might have been a wash. But it ended up being pretty big for us."

Baltimore ended a six-game losing streak to Washington that began last May, won for only the fourth time in 20 games and improved the majors' worst road record to 10-28.

This one was worth the wait.

"It's never easy, especially when you get over the hour mark, two-hour mark," Trumbo said. "Then you have to restart. It's almost two games in one, so, great job by our guys tonight."

The Nationals managed only two hits following the delay, both in the ninth inning.

"It happens. You can't do anything about the rain," manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to come out and get yourself ready to play. I'm not going to make any excuses."

The rain delay cut short a solid pitching performance by Cashner, who allowed three hits and no walks over four innings in his return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list with back spasms.

Miguel Castro (2-2) followed with two hitless innings, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh and Zach Britton got four outs.

Brad Brach allowed the Nationals to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Mark Reynolds .

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Gio Gonzalez (6-4), and for a while it appeared the drive would be washed out by the rain.

"One pitch. That was the whole game," Gonzalez lamented. "That was it."

Indeed, it all ended well for the Orioles, who added a run in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled off Shawn Kelley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia .

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The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

On Monday, in the middle of their game with the Yankees, Mike Rizzo did a very Mike Rizzo thing and added another strong arm to the Nationals' bullpen well before the trade deadline.

In a trade with the Kansas City Royals, the Nats dealt prospects Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel for relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera.

Herrera, who's in his eighth season, has walked only two batters in the last 27 games and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. 

"We just thought that it was a good idea to strike early," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"We thought the closer to the deadline we get, the more competition we'll have for Kelvin [Herrera]. We were able to strike a deal with Dayton Moore quickly and [we] couldn't be happier about it."

But Mike Rizzo didn't just come across Herrera by chance, he's had his sights on him for years.

"He was one of the guys that we kind of kicked the tires on [last year] and obviously the price for Kelvin at that time with a year and a half of control was a lot different than it was with four and a half months of control."

"We did have our eyes on him for years. He's been a great reliever for years. He's one of the guys we talked about when we talked about improving our bullpen." 

Herrera has spent all of his eight seasons in the big leagues with the Royals, even winning a World Series. Trades can bring both joy and angst, but Rizzo knows Herrera is excited to get back to playing meaningful baseball.

"This guy is such a competitor; World Series tested and playoff tested. He's happy to be playing meaningful games. He talked about what it takes to win a World Series, and you know, our guys were all ears. I think he's really thankful for getting the opportunity to get after it again and get another ring."

"At the same time, you know, it's hard for those old relationship to die and to move on, but he was very excited about being with us. I spoke to him after we made the trade and he [was] a little shocked, but really fired up about it. And when he got to the clubhouse, [he] met some of his old teammates - Timmy Collins and Ryan Madson -  and was welcome with open arms by not only the bullpen guys but everyone on the team." 

Herrera will join Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler, and Ryan Madson to make about as deep of a bullpen as any in baseball right now.

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