Marlins 1, Nats 0

This wasn’t how the Nats wanted to start the second half of the 2010 season. They should have won two games against Florida. They had a chance to sweep the series. Instead, thanks to an 0-for-18 performance with runners in scoring position on Saturday and Sunday against the Marlins, they left Miami with just one win. You can blame Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham after Sunday’s 1-0 loss if you want. They weren’t very good at the plate the last two days (2-for-15, one walk, eight strikeouts) and came up short again and again with runners on base. But both did their job on Friday night and it’s not like anyone else contributed much other than Ryan Zimmerman, who had three hits in the series and was hit by a pitch on Sunday. Willingham drove in three runs with his double on Friday. Otherwise it was a nightmare at SunLifeLandSharkDolphinsDolphinProPlayerJoeRobbie Stadium. Isn’t it always? Washington outscored Florida 4-3 in the series and STILL lost twice. Unbelievable. The Nats also combined for 30 strikeouts in three games.

“I just briefly met with the club afterwards and kind of talked about that,” Nats manager Jim Riggleman told MASN afterwards. “You know what? Just trying to stay positive. The glass is half full. I know people get tired of hearing that. The runners were out there. We’ve got to keep them out there. If we don’t get them in I guess that’s better than the alternative…But certainly sooner or lately we’ve got to finish it off.”

Despite the offensive woes, it was a big afternoon for Craig Stammen (2-4, 5.50 ERA) on the mound. For whatever reason the first inning has killed him this season with a 10.17 ERA in that frame through his first 15 starts. He hasn’t been much better in the second inning, either (7.53). So once again Stammen found himself with runners at first and second and one out against the Marlins in their first time at bat. But he struck out Dan Uggla and got Jorge Cantu to ground out to short. That helped set the tone as Stammen settled down. Florida threatened in the fourth thanks to a single and two walks, but left the bases loaded. The Marlins did score on back-to-back doubles in the fifth and hit another in the sixth. But Stammen left after six innings with just one earned run allowed. In all, he walked three, gave up six hits and struck out six batters. After consecutive mediocre performances against the Giants and Mets – and with six other starters slowly fighting their way back towards the big leagues in the coming weeks - he needed that one.

“Three days in a row our starter gave us a good outing and our bullpen came in and didn’t give up anything,” Riggleman said. “So no complaints there.”

You feel for Adam Kennedy, thrown out on the bases two games in a row. Last night it was when he tried to score from second on a bobbled infield grounder, running through a late stop sign in the process. Today he rounded second in the ninth on a base hit by Michael Morse. But when he realized a good throw from right fielder Mike Stanton would beat him he slammed on the brakes – and then fell down. Stanton did the right thing and hit his cutoff man so shortstop Hanley Ramirez was in perfect position to slap a tag on Kennedy for the second out. Kennedy sat all alone on the top step of the dugout as pinch hitter Ivan Rodriguez struck out to end the game. The Nats need better from their veteran second baseman.

“Well, it’s ironic that two nights in a row Adam is making a hustling play, an aggressive play,” Riggleman said. “He wants to go to third and then his judgment told him ‘You know what? I better not do that, that ball’s hit a little harder than that.’ And he just couldn’t get himself turned around in time to get back. I’m sure he felt he wasn’t that far off. But he just couldn’t get the momentum turned around.

But again – get some hits and Kennedy’s gaffes don’t matter. It didn’t happen, though. And now the Nats (40-52) have to go to Cincinnati (51-42) for a three-game series against one of the National League’s best teams. They don't make things easy on themselves at all.

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