MIAMI – The Nationals can’t seem to catch the Marlins for whatever reason. They came into this afternoon needing a victory to avoid a three-game sweep.
Although Trevor Williams pitched a quality start and Jeimer Candelario continued with his hot bat, the Nationals fell again to the Fish by a score of 5-3 in front of an announced crowd of 7,752 at loanDepot Park.
“Tough game," manager Davey Martinez said after the loss. "We tried to make a comeback there, just couldn't finish it. We just didn't hit enough this series. I thought we pitched pretty good. Just the bats got cold on us. So we gotta come back and start swinging the bats, get the ball in the strike zone. We had one ending there where I thought things were gonna snap out of it and then we hit into a double play. So tough series, like you said, and we just gonna come back tomorrow and be ready to play.”
This has become all too familiar for the Nats. They have now lost six of their last seven series against Miami dating back to last year, and have been swept four times.
The Nationals had trouble with Marlins rookie right-hander Eury Pérez, who was making just his second major league start. The 20-year-old is the Marlins’ top-ranked prospect, the No. 7 ranked prospect in all of baseball and the No. 2 ranked right-handed pitching prospect in the sport, per MLB Pipeline. He came in with a fastball that sits at 94-97 mph and peaks at 100, a deceptive upper-80s changeup, an upper-70s curveball and a mid-80s slider.
So the Nats knew they had a tough task ahead of them. And they were not too successful.
Pérez completed five innings of one-run ball with three hits, one walk and six strikeouts on 78 pitches, 48 for strikes. He did get some fortunate calls on pitches that seemed to be on the border of the strike zone. But the Nats also didn’t do themselves any favors by chasing a lot, much like they did last night against Edward Cabrera.
“The kid's got good stuff, he really does," Martinez said. "They took him out in the fifth, we didn't get a whole lot of him. But I thought we worked good at-bats.”
Candelario had the only productive swing off Pérez, crushing a 95 mph fastball 443 feet to center field to tie the team lead with five home runs on a solo shot.
“Candy on once again. Candy's swinging the bat really well for us," Martinez said. "He was able to get in a good count and hit a home run.”
He then got a late rally going in the eighth following singles by Luis García and Lane Thomas with an RBI double to right field. The Nats would score one more time on Corey Dickerson’s RBI infield single, but still come up just short.
“Making good contact, trying to have good ABs, trying to help my team win. That's all I want," Candelario said. "I want to be able to be in a good position to help my team win and I'm gonna keep working really hard to keep doing what I'm doing.”
Over his last eight games, Candelario is 12-for-27 (.444) with five doubles, a triple, a home run, five walks and five strikeouts for a 1.360 OPS.
“Just be consistent," he said. "Swing in the strike zone. Working really hard with my hitting coaches. We are on the same page and walking in the same directions.”
The biggest victim today – and this series, for that matter – was CJ Abrams in the eighth spot. He struck out twice and flew out in his three at-bats. After going 6-for-16 with two home runs and five RBIs last series against the Mets, the young shortstop went 0-for-11 with eight strikeouts this week against the Marlins.
“Chase, chase, chase," Martinez said of Abrams' tough series. "When he got the ball where he can hit, just had a little bit of an upswing, and that's caused by just being young and having some success. Hitting some home runs. We got to get him back above the baseball and through the baseball.”
Williams kept the Nats in the game in just his second quality start of the season, and his first outing since his Saturday start was cut short due to a rain suspension.
“Yeah, I'll take rest anytime during the year when I can," he said of his somewhat extra rest. "Unfortunately, weather happens, rain happens. So I'll be the token rainout guy if that's what needs to happen. But I'm just glad that I was able to stay on my routine and pitch today on normal rest and be able to go out there and give six innings today.”
Like Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore before him, Williams couldn’t avoid giving up the longball. He actually made a tough pitch – a 92 mph fastball up and way to Bryan De La Cruz – but the Marlins outfielder muscled it 402 feet over the center field wall.
“We executed on our pitch," Williams said. "We threw where we wanted to. He's a good ballplayer, he's been swinging the bat well right now. And he put a better swing on it. So for him to do that, you tip your hat to a guy like that. From an execution standpoint, we did what we wanted to do. Just he put a better swing on it.”
A double and a single in the third led to another run against Williams. And then a single, hit batter, flyout and single gave the Marlins a 3-1 lead after four.
Williams finished six innings with five hits, three runs, one walk, five strikeouts, one home run and a hit batter on 94 pitches, 60 for strikes.
“It was a tough loss for us, especially because it was a tough series," he said. "I was just trying to do my best to get as many innings as I could today. Give us a chance to win. They've been playing good baseball the last few days. They put some good swings on balls today early. It was a hard-fought series even though it says that we got swept. But for us to continue to fight like we did today and come back at the end, the fight that we showed yesterday, and even in the first game, it's something that we're gonna flush, but it's something that we can build upon when we get home.”
“He threw the ball well," Martinez said. "This whole year he's been keeping us in the ballgame. They got a couple of hits there and gave up a couple of runs. But other than that, man, he threw the ball really well.”
The Marlins manufactured a run off Mason Thompson in the seventh and an unearned run off Erasmo Ramírez in the eighth to ultimately put this one away.
“Once again, we made a crucial error there late," Martinez said. "We could've kept the game closer within a run. Those little things seem to bite us a little bit. So just gotta play good clean baseball.”
It’s another loss to the Marlins, who used this three-game sweep to get to two games above .500 and 4 ½ games behind the Braves in the National League East. This team has been playing well (and a 14-1 record in one-run games certainly helps), and for whatever reason, the Nats can’t beat them.
"You saw the fight today in the guys," Williams said. "We were down 4-1, and for the guys that come back like that at the end against some of their good relievers. For us to do that fight, especially losing the first two games and coming back and doing that, it's good. It's good for our team. The ebbs and flows of the season is going to happen. I saw a lot of fight and a lot of positives out of this three-game series. So I'm just looking forward to getting back at home in D.C. and starting it off with Jake (Irvin) tomorrow on the mound against the Tigers and going from there.”
“We just got to be able to stick with the good things that we did today and turn the page tomorrow," Candelario said. "Like we're doing right now at home, we just got to dominate from the first inning to the ninth inning. So that's what we want to do over there in Washington, and that's what we're going to do.”
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