Nationals' frustrating night ends in 5-0 loss to the Marlins

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 13, 2010; 12:45 AM

Thursday night was a night for patience at Nationals Park, a night for a leisurely beer or three in the Red Loft as you waited out the rain, a night for syrupy Liván Hernández curve balls that could have been timed by a wristwatch instead of a radar gun, a night when the Washington Nationals' long-awaited burst of offense was always just a swing away, if you could just wait for it.

But it was a night when patience went unrewarded. The Nationals waited out a rain delay of nearly two hours, survived a shaky start to Hernández's latest cloudy gem, and kept putting runners on base with their mashers coming to the plate -- only to lose again.

The Nationals' 5-0 loss to the Marlins completed a three-game sweep at the hands of their NL East rivals and pushed their losing streak to five games, during which the Nationals have been outscored by an unsightly margin of 12-33.

An announced crowd of 16,496 -- lured to the park, despite the rain, by the promotional giveaway of a DVD of Stephen Strasburg's memorable June 8 big league debut -- saw the Nationals produce a game that undoubtedly will never be saved to disc for posterity.

Hernández, the only constant in a Nationals rotation that has seen a total of 12 pitchers pass through it this season, delivered the kind of game that has defined his remarkable season -- rarely brilliant, occasionally maddening, but ultimately effective. And true to this season's script, he got nothing but another "L" for his effort.

Stymied early on by a tight strike zone, Hernández (8-8) gave up a two-run homer to Marlins outfield sensation Mike Stanton in the second inning, and a third run when the Marlins strung together three singles in the third. But he righted himself after that, pitching into the seventh inning to save, at least for a night, the Nationals' overtaxed bullpen.

If there were any justice in baseball, Hernándezwould have at least a dozen wins (not to mention a 2011 contract). This season, he has twice absorbed losses in 2-0 games, and three times he received a no-decision in games in which he has pitched seven innings and given up only one earned run.

Thursday night's outing, in fact, was the 10th time this season Hernández has delivered a quality start (six-plus innings, three or fewer earned runs) yet taken either a loss or a no-decision.

One night after going 5 for 5 and coming a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, Stanton -- who was seven years old when Hernández charmed Miami as the MVP of the 1997 World Series -- greeted Hernández in the second inning with a two-run homer, which was declared as such only after a replay review, as the ball landed atop the scoreboard in right-center and bounced back onto the field.

"Just a bad pitch," Hernández said. "A slider that doesn't do anything."

Stanton walked in the third inning -- at which point he had reached base in seven consecutive plate appearances and 10 out of 11, dating fromTuesday night -- before finally making an out in the sixth, when Hernández got him to foul out.

In the year of the phenom, with Washington's Strasburg, Atlanta's Jason Heyward and San Francisco's Buster Posey drawing most of the attention, Stanton, a strapping lad of 6 feet 5, 235 pounds, might be the fourth face on that peach-fuzzed Mount Rushmore.

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