WASHINGTON -- Manager Davey Johnson did everything he could to get the offense going on Wednesday.
Not only did he have a team meeting, telling his players that they have been underachieving, he sat Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina to give them a mental break.
It almost worked, but the Nationals lost to the Marlins, 7-5, at Nationals Park.
For most of the game, the offense was lethargic. Washington collected six hits off Florida starter Javier Vazquez, one of them a homer by Laynce Nix.
"I didn't think he was throwing that good," Johnson said about Vazquez.
It was 7-1 in the ninth in favor of the Marlins when the Nationals made it interesting, scoring four runs off right-hander Steve Cishek.
After hitting a pinch-hit triple down the right-field line, Desmond scored on a single by Jerry Hairston Jr. Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman hit a ground-rule double, scoring Hairston. Marlins closer Leo Nunez then entered the game and allowed a single to Michael Morse that drove in Alex Cora and Zimmerman.
Nix followed and hit the ball to deep right field. It looked as though it was going over the fence, but Mike Stanton caught it in front of the fence to end the game.
"I wasn't sure. It felt pretty good off the bat," Nix said. "I didn't quite get it all, and it came up short."
"I couldn't really tell at first," Stanton said. "The way he finished the swing, he didn't [act] like it was a home run, but it looked like it had a chance. It just held up there."
The Nationals have now lost seven out of their last eight games and find themselves in last place in the National League East, a game and a half behind the Marlins.
Although the Nationals lost the game, Johnson was glad his team didn't give up.
"Our guys had some great hits," Johnson said. "I'm really proud of the way the guys battled back. We came back against some really good pitching. It was exciting. ... The bats just woke up too late."
Washington's best chance to score more runs off Vazquez had come in the seventh inning. They had runners on first and second with no outs, but Cora hit into a double play.
The next hitter, Zimmerman, sent a ball deep to right field, but Stanton made a nice leaping catch to end the inning.
Starter Livan Hernandez had nothing in the tank for the Nationals. He lasted four-plus innings, and allowed four runs on five hits.
The Marlins were able to take the lead in the second inning, when Stanton hit a solo homer. Two innings later, John Buck singled, scoring two runs to make it a 3-0 game.
Hernandez usually goes deep into games, but two batters into the fifth, Johnson had seen enough and took him out in favor of Ross Detwiler.
Hanley Ramirez doubled off Detwiler, scoring Emilio Bonifacio to make it 4-1. The run was charged to Hernandez.
"The starting pitching hasn't been like we wanted it to be," Johnson said. "Livo used a lot of pitches in four innings. I've never seen him around 80 pitches in four innings. He was close to 90, and I took him out. He is usually in the seventh inning by that time."
It didn't help Hernandez's cause that his sinker wasn't working.
"The sinker was a little different today," Hernandez said. "I didn't feel too good with the sinker. ... My sinker is the best pitch that I have to get ground balls. The secondary pitches are cutters and curveballs. When the sinker is not working, it's difficult. It's tough when you don't have it. It's your best pitch. Today it was little flat. I tried throwing it a different way to try to get the feeling back. It didn't happen."
The Marlins added what would turn out to be some needed insurance runs when Mike Cameron homered over the right-field wall off Todd Coffey in the eighth and added a two-run homer off Drew Storen in the ninth.
The homer off Storen proved to be the difference in the game.
"I know Drew Storen was upset. He doesn't give up anything, and he gave up the two-run homer. That would have been the difference," Johnson said.
Said Storen: "I got a fastball up and in on him. That's pretty much what it was. He put a good swing on it. I didn't throw exactly the pitch I wanted."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.