WASHINGTON — It was a breezy day at Nationals Park on Thursday, especially at home plate. That’s where Marlins hitters whiffed 17 times to match a team record in their 7-1 loss to Washington.
Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg fanned a dozen and Ian Desmond connected on a grand slam — the second bases-loaded blast in as many days for the Nationals — as Washington completed a series sweep.
The 17 strikeouts equaled a Marlins record for a nine-inning game. The Marlins also whiffed 17 times against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 3, 1996, and against Arizona on April 28, 2002.
If the Nationals series was a litmus test for the Marlins, who arrived in first place with a 5-2 record, it came out tasting like acid.
“Obviously, we would have liked to come in and take a game or two here,” Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee said. “The good thing is we did have a nice start at home. We’re sitting here 5-5. It’s not like we’re 1-9 or something like that.”
Said Marlins manager Mike Redmond: “I think we all wished we had a little better showing here.”
The Marlins were no match for Nationals pitchers, especially Strasburg.
After giving up a leadoff single to Christian Yelich in the first, Strasburg retired 14 in a row before Adeiny Hechavarria ended the drought by reaching on a Desmond error.
But it was slim pickings all afternoon for the Marlins, whether Strasburg or someone else was on the mound for Washington.
Strasburg came out with two outs in the seventh, having given up only three hits, including a Marcell Ozuna home run.
The K’s didn’t end there.
Relievers Jerry Blevins, Aaron Barrett and Rafael Soriano continued the assault. Of the 15 final outs recorded by Nationals pitchers, 13 were strikeouts. The Marlins were one whiff away from standing alone in the team records when Ozuna flied to right to end the game.
Redmond said part of the problem were the the afternoon shadows, which made it difficult for hitters on both teams.
“It was both ways,” McGehee said. “They were hitting in the same shadows we were. I’m not going to say the shadows were the determining factor in the outcome of the game. But, you look at it, the middle part of the game, there weren’t a whole lot of balls being hit well from either side.”
Following Jayson Werth’s two-run shot in the third, Marlins starter Tom Koehler and reliever Mike Dunn combined to strike out eight of the 13 outs that were recorded.
Other than the home run given up to Werth, Koehler also pitched a strong game, holding Washington to five hits over six innings before his departure in the seventh for a pinch-hitter.
“The last two days have been a little tough,” said Koehler of losses Wednesday and Thursday.
Koehler said the Marlins need to try to take something positive away from the fruitless series.
“Don’t forget the games,” Koehler said. “But also don’t dwell on it. Learn from it. If we don’t learn from these three games, then that’s where they’re really going to hurt us.”
Despite their repeated failures at the plate, the Marlins still trailed by only a 2-1 margin entering the eighth.
But with Arquimedes Caminero on the mound, it all fell apart. Caminero issued a bases-loaded walk to Bryce Harper, which made it 3-1. Desmond then took him deep for a grand slam less than 24 hours after Werth did the same thing to Carlos Marmol that propelled the Nationals to a 10-7 victory.
The loss put the Marlins back at .500 with a 5-5 record. They head to Philadelphia, where they’ll open a three-game series against the Phillies on Friday. Jose Fernandez, who is 2-0, will take the mound for the Marlins.