Relief corps falters in late loss to Marlins
Beimel struggles in the seventh as Nats drop series
MIAMI -- There's an old saying about struggling teams -- "They never get the breaks."
The Nationals have been one of those teams all season, and games like Tuesday's have been playing out since April.
Washington had a four-run lead going into the sixth inning only to see it get cut to one. Then, when the Marlins finally came back to take a two-run lead in the seventh, a one hour, 29-minute rain delay led to the game being called.
The final score after the Nationals committed four errors, the bullpen dropped another close game late and the umpires made it official with two outs in the bottom of the seventh was 7-5, as the Nationals lost the middle game of a three-game set to the Marlins at Land Shark Stadium.
"It couldn't happen an inning before?" asked slugger Adam Dunn, who sparked the Nationals with an RBI double in the first inning and a two-run homer -- his 20th -- that gave his club a 5-1 lead in the fifth. "You've gotta think the baseball gods really do hate us."
If it was up to the Marlins, though, they'd be seeing the Nationals every day of the year. Against its division rivals, Florida has won nine straight and 19 of its last 22.
"It seems like every year one team kind of has the other team's number, and so far the Marlins have been that team for us," said Dunn, whose team is 0-8 against Florida this season, with six of those games being decided by three runs or fewer. "We just can't seem to find a way to get the big hit or make that big pitch to get us out of an inning."
Through five innings against the Marlins, all Craig Stammen did was make big pitches.
But that ran out in the sixth.
Down, 5-1, the Marlins quickly put runners on the corners with one out. While facing Hanley Ramirez, Stammen uncorked a wild pitch that allowed a run to score, then gave up a two-run homer to Florida's star shortstop that made it a one-run game.
"I had a great swing, and the ball went out," Ramirez said about the homer. "It was a good pitch by him, too. It was down and away."
Then came the seventh, when the Marlins were already into the heart of the struggling Nationals' bullpen and put a runner on second with one out. At that point, Joe Beimel came out of the 'pen and loaded the bases after Ross Gload reached on an error by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman -- his third of the day, with the first two coming on one play to allow a run in the first inning -- and Chris Coghlan walked.
With two outs came Ramirez, who hit a two-run single to right field to give his team its first lead of the game. After that, Jorge Cantu brought in another run with a base hit to left field, and shortly after that -- with a two men on, two outs and a 2-2 count on Brett Carroll with Jesus Colome on the mound -- play was stopped, not to start again.
None of the relievers' runs were earned, but the loss put the bullpen's record at a Major League-worst 7-26.
"Ironic," is how Nats outfielder Josh Willingham sarcastically described the rainout.
But that doesn't explain the incredible run Willingham's former teammate is on. With Ramirez's four RBIs on Tuesday, the Marlins slugger has 22 in his last nine games.
"He got two really big hits tonight and he seems to get big hits all the time," Willingham said.
Beimel was tagged with the loss, and in his first career appearance against the Marlins, Stammen ended up with the no-decision despite being almost unhittable in his first five frames.
In that stretch, the Marlins got just one unearned run -- on Zimmerman's two errors -- and three hits, while Stammen retired eight of nine at one point and even hit a two-run single up the middle to give his team a 3-1 lead in the fourth.
But as has been his problem all year, he simply couldn't maintain his dominance against an opposing lineup the third time around.
"Very disappointing in how I finished because I had a pretty good lead and we had the game in our hands, and I kind of let them get back into it," said Stammen, who finished giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits in 5 1/3 innings and left after 73 pitches.
"He gets through five innings, and then after that he hits a wall, and it's part of the learning process," manager Manny Acta said.
This was the third time the Nationals have been involved in a game that was called before nine innings, and their record in those games is 0-3.
But with the radar indicating rain was going to last a minimum of three hours, and with an afternoon game on Wednesday, Acta said there was pretty much no way of finishing.
"The umpire decided to call the game, and that's where it ends," said Acta, whose team has lost seven of its last nine. "It's in their hands.
"It's equal opportunity. You're afraid of the rain? You have to be ahead when the rain comes down. We had the lead, but we blew it in the seventh. So we have nothing to blame but ourselves."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.