Marlins get to Roark early again (Nationals lose 6-1)

MIAMI - Something about the sight of Marlins batters in the first inning doesn't seem to agree with Tanner Roark, who for the second time in this brief season dug the Nationals into an early hole against Miami.

The Marlins scored three runs in the first off Roark, then added another in the second to take a 4-0 lead for ace Jose Fernandez in tonight's opener of a four-game series at Marlins Park.

roark-red-pitching-short-hair-sidebar.jpgThis wasn't the first time Roark has dealt with first-inning struggles against the Marlins. This same lineup got him for three quick runs in the top of the first in the home opener at Nationals Park only 11 days ago.

As was the case last time, the Marlins did their damage not with one big swing but multiple quality ones. Dee Gordon led off with a single, stole second, then forced Roark into a balk that advanced him to third and prompted Dusty Baker to bring his infield in. Christian Yelich pounced on the opportunity, sending a sharp grounder through the left side hole.

Roark had a chance to escape the inning with minimal damage, but he couldn't put away Marcell Ozuna, who lined a 2-2 two-out slider to left, bringing home two more runs and making it 3-0.

The Marlins kept the pressure on in the bottom of the second, aided by a call reversed by the umpires in New York, who determined that shortstop Danny Espinosa's foot wasn't touching the bag when he caught Wilson Ramos' offline throw on a poor bunt attempt. That successful challenge of the neighborhood play set the stage for another run to score, though it could've been worse if not for Anthony Rendon's diving stop of Martin Prado's scorcher down the third base line.

The Nationals had a chance to cut into the lead in the top of the second, when Fernandez decided to intentionally walk Espinosa and instead face Roark with two out and two on. That move backfired when Fernandez wound up unintentionally walking Roark, loading the bases for Michael A. Taylor.

The struggling leadoff man, though, couldn't deliver. Despite battling his way through a seven-pitch at-bat, Taylor struck out on a 2-2 slider, leaving the Nationals scoreless through two innings.

Update: The Nats finally got their first hit of the night in the top of the fifth, when Taylor blasted a double to left-center. And when Rendon followed with a single up the middle, Bryce Harper stepped to the plate with a chance to significantly change the course of this ballgame. Harper just got under Fernandez's pitch, though, sending a mile-high fly ball to right field, not deep enough to leave the park but deep enough to score Taylor and account for his 16th RBI of the season.

Problem is, Roark gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning, leaving a 2-0 pitch to Stanton over the plate. That's always a dangerous move, and sure enough, Stanton sent it soaring to center field for a solo homer. It looked like the ball landed in the new shrubbery out there, though, suggesting it actually wouldn't have been a homer in the past before they moved the fences in this season.

So make it a 5-1 lead for the Marlins after five.

Update II: The good news: The Nats knocked Fernandez out after six innings and 103 pitches. The bad news: They only managed the one run off him, leaving themselves with quite a challenge trying to rally against the Miami bullpen.

And the challenge only got tougher when Stanton singled home a run in the bottom of the seventh off Matt Belisle, stretching the lead to 6-1. The Nationals have their work cut out for them now.

Update III: That'll do it. The Nats lose, 6-1. It's their first two-game losing streak of the season. And Bryce Harper's home-run streak has come to an end at four games.

Back at it tomorrow night, with Stephen Strasburg facing Adam Conley.

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