Anibal Sanchez done, but Nationals fall to Marlins 8-0

Update: Nationals blanked by Marlins, 8-0.

As a whole, it’s tough to take many issues with the way the Nationals have played this weekend in Florida. They won the first two games of the series with good pitching and clean defense, holding a Marlins team that’s hammered their pitching staff to four runs in the first two games.

But they’re losing 7-0 today, with Anibal Sanchez just having lost a no-hitter in the seventh inning, and there are a couple things that will probably make Nationals fans uneasy after this one.

The offense, by now, is a well-known issue, and the lineup looked especially thin today with Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos getting days off. But the Nationals’ strikeouts are starting to pile up; they’ve fanned 11 times today against Sanchez, and they entered the day with the third-highest strikeout rate in the majors (at 24.1 percent of their at-bats). With their team on-base percentage an abysmal .298, they’re forced to generate their runs by putting the ball in play, and they’re not doing that well enough.

It’s also worth pointing out that Livan Hernandez, who allowed six runs in five innings today, has given up four or more runs in three of his last four starts. Hernandez will occasionally go through stretches like these where he struggles to get people out, and bounced back from them last year. But his impressive 2010 season (a 3.66 ERA) was also built on an ability to get outs when the ball was put in play (hitters’ batting average on balls in play against him was only .287). Is he starting his regression? It’s too early to tell, but he’s in need of a good start when he pitches against the Marlins at Nationals Park next weekend.

The Nationals are on their way to falling back to two games under .500, though winning a series in Florida is rare enough that you’d have to call the weekend a success. They’ll move on to Atlanta on Tuesday after a day off tomorrow.