Nats come up short again in 4-3 loss to Marlins (updated)

MIAMI – MacKenzie Gore had to grind through his last start on Friday against the Mets. He needed 96 pitches to get through four scoreless innings.

Manager Davey Martinez said before Gore’s start tonight that the young left-hander needed to pound the strike zone to be more efficient with his pitches.

Gore was able to stay in the zone, but that wasn’t always a good thing. Unfortunately, one of those pitches was left too much in the zone and helped stake the Marlins to a 4-3 win over the Nationals in front of an announced crowd of 8,451 at loanDepot Park.

The southpaw started off strong with a 1-2-3 first inning that included a strikeout on 13 pitches and had a 2-0 lead by the time he took the mound in the second.

But he walked Bryan De La Cruz and gave him second base on a wild pitch. Jean Segura then singled to center to put runners on the corners and set up Yuli Gurriel’s sacrifice fly to left field.

Gore came back to strike out the side in the third, two via curveballs and one with the fastball. But he had to face the heart of the Marlins order and Jorge Soler in the fourth.

Luis Arraez led off the inning with a single to right and then Soler struck again. After hitting a two-run walk-off home run off Hunter Harvey in the ninth inning last night, the Marlins slugger hit a two-run homer off Gore to the same spot in left-center field. Gore left a 95 mph fastball right over the plate and slightly outside while trying to go inside, just like Harvey did last night.

“Yeah, that's what I was trying to do," Gore said after the game. "And we did it in the first at-bat and we got him out. And yeah, I just left it over the plate.”

He would then give up a triple to Segura but stranded him with a popout and strikeout.

A 1-2-3 fifth inning on 10 pitches set him up to go deeper into the game at only 80 pitches. But a one-out walk to Soler and an RBI double to De La Cruz brought Martinez out from the dugout and Andrés Machado from the bullpen.

Gore finished 5 ⅓ innings on 93 pitches, 60 strikes, with five hits, four runs, two walks, seven strikeouts, a home run and two wild pitches. His ERA is now at 3.69.

"Well, definitely more efficient," he said. "This was frustrating because it was a few pitches I left over in the middle of the plate. We got a leave early and I just didn't do a good job of, you know, that's the one guy that we can't let beat us going in and I threw a pitch right down the middle. It's frustrating just for that reason, because the stuff was fine. But I'll let the guys in the middle that we knew we had to stay away from and they hit some doubles and the homer.”

“His location was a little bit off, but his stuff is good," Martinez said. "He couldn't get his breaking balls over quite as much as he normally does. Slider wasn't there tonight. He left a couple of balls out over the plate and they took advantage of it."

The Nats tried to rally like they did last night, or maybe more like the Marlins did facing a 4-2 deficit at some point.

Corey Dickerson, in his first game back since being reinstated from the 10-day injured list, hit the second pitch of his first at-bat 432 feet into the second deck in right field for a two-run homer, his first of the season. Edward Cabrera left a 96 mph sinker right over the plate to the left-handed hitter, who gave the Nats a 2-0 lead. Dickerson was the designated hitter in place of Joey Meneses, who landed on the paternity list this afternoon for the birth of his son, Joseph.

"That was one of those that I finally got my timing the way I wanted working on it down there (on his rehab assignment)," Dickerson said of his homer. "And yeah, it's one of those you don't forget. But it's also good to have just a hard hit ball just so you can remember. That's good going forward. You can keep that in the back of your mind and know that you did it and you're not having to search for it. You know it's in there. So just get your work in and compete.”

Dickerson then started a rally in the seventh with a leadoff single to right. Ildemaro Vargas, playing left field, reached on a fielder’s choice and then both runners advanced into scoring position on an error by Marlins shortstop Jon Berti.

Although Alex Call scored Dickerson with a groundout to short to make it a 4-3 game, CJ Abrams and Lane Thomas struck out to end the threat.

“It felt like Opening Day for me," Dickerson said. "To get the first hit, first homer kind of out of the way was pretty cool. But it all goes to the training staff. They did such a good job getting me back. They really cared and put in the effort and time, and I'm pretty appreciative to them.”

“That was awesome," Martinez said of Dickerson's return. "I mean, you come out like that and hit a ball that hard, that was awesome. I'm happy for him. He's waited a long time to get back in the lineup and it's good to see that he's healthy. He's gonna help us.”

The Nats again struggled with runners in scoring position going 0-for-5 with four runners left on base. They also struck out nine times on the night.

"I think the big thing today was Cabrera's changeup was really good, and uncharacteristic, we struck out a lot," Martinez said.

At least the bullpen bounced back after last night. Machado, Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Finnegan combined to pitch 2 ⅔ scoreless innings with only three hits allowed and three strikeouts to close the game.

“Very good,” the skipper said. "It's good to see CEJ, who, honestly for me, he wasn't really throwing the ball that bad. He just ran into some not so good luck. But he's the CEJ I know right now. He's throwing strikes down in the zone. His fastball has got some life to it, it's got some movement. So we got to keep him right there.”

But it’s still another loss to the Marlins, who are now 18-1 in one-run games. The Nats are 7-10 in such games and will have to try to bounce back again tomorrow afternoon to avoid the sweep.

"We got to come back tomorrow and try to go 1-0 tomorrow and get out of here and get back home," Martinez said. "We're still playing good. I'm seeing good defense. Candy swung the bat well again, so that's awesome. We took the lead. It's good to see Dickerson back in there and hit the home run and get a big hit for us there late in the game. But yeah, we just got to come back tomorrow and get one more than the other guys.”

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