The loss ended the Nationals’ three-game winning streak and, at 45-50, left them six games back of the New York Mets in the National League East.
The Marlins pushed two runs across in the top of the 10th off closer Brad Hand, who worked two innings. The key hit was Jorge Alfaro’s double, which scored automatic runner Lewis Brinson and pushed Jon Berti, who had walked, to third base. Miguel Rojas followed with a sacrifice fly to account for the final margin.
“We had a couple of opportunities; we just didn’t hit the ball tonight,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said. “The good news is Fedde threw the ball really well — he really did. I mean, he gave us six good innings, so hopefully ... he’ll feel okay tomorrow, and he’ll come back in five days and he’ll do the same thing.”
On a night with a pronounced lack of offense, Fedde was a bright spot. After enduring three rough starts since being sidelined with a left oblique strain at the end of June, Fedde kept the Marlins off-balance through his 84-pitch outing, yielding just four hits while striking out four.
Martinez said before the game that Fedde’s biggest issue was not being aggressive enough in the strike zone, instead using extra pitches that ran up his pitch count. Early on, Fedde was extremely effective at getting ahead in the count. He threw first-pitch strikes to the first 10 batters.
Fedde finally ran into trouble in the fourth when Starling Marte hit a leadoff double. His issues intensified after an error by third baseman Josh Harrison and a four-pitch walk to Jesús Aguilar, loading the bases with no outs.
Fedde responded by forcing Joe Panik to ground into a double play that brought home the game’s first run before inducing a grounder to first by Sandy León to escape further damage.
The Nationals answered in the bottom of the inning with Andrew Stevenson’s double off the out-of-town scoreboard that drove in Harrison.
Fedde then locked down the Marlins over the next two innings, giving up one hit and striking out four in a row, relying heavily on an effective sinker. The right-hander threw the pitch 51 percent of the time against Miami.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stressing and the last couple have been pretty awful,” Fedde said. “So, to get that and get the chance to win that game, it’s nice and it gives me confidence moving forward.”
With the trade deadline set for July 30, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday he expected more out of his starting rotation. The starters were not an issue against the Marlins, with Fedde’s outing one of three strong starts — following Jon Lester in Monday’s 18-1 win and Paolo Espino’s five scoreless innings in a 6-3 victory Tuesday.
The trio combined for 18 innings without giving up an earned run with 14 strikeouts.
Unlike Lester and Espino, Fedde didn’t get much help from the offense. A day after they produced a handful of clutch two-out hits, the Nationals couldn’t find the key hit against five Miami pitchers, leaving seven on base. The Nationals hit into four double plays.
Martinez followed the same bullpen formula that helped the Nationals win Tuesday’s game: Kyle Finnegan in the seventh, Daniel Hudson in the eighth and Hand in the ninth. It was Hand’s second inning that courted danger.
Now the Nationals have a day off before heading to Baltimore to face the Orioles, another team at the bottom of its division.
“A solid goal for us is to win series,” first baseman Josh Bell said. “Davey said something like, ‘We’re trying to make up one game on the Mets a week for the next stretch of games.’ So it’s on to Baltimore now, and we got business to take care of there.”