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Instant analysis: Phillies 6, Nats 3

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Instant analysis: Phillies 6, Nats 3

Game in a nutshell: Hoping to move another step closer to their first division title, the Nationals dug themselves into an early hole and couldn't climb all the way out. Ross Detwiler, who hadn't allowed a run in his last 14 13 innings against the Phillies, was roughed up for five runs during a ragged, two-inning stretch. The Nationals knocked Cole Hamels out after five but couldn't get anything going against the Philadelphia bullpen.

And before they knew what hit them, they had dropped the ballgame. Even worse, the Braves rallied in dramatic fashion to beat the Marlins in the bottom of the ninth, clinching a playoff berth and reducing their deficit in the NL East to four games with eight to play.

The Nationals' magic number remains stuck at five. And they can no longer wrap up the division title in Philly. The earliest they can do that now: Friday night in St. Louis.

Hitting lowlight: In one regard, the Nationals lineup did a solid job against Hamels, making the left-hander work and driving his pitch count up to the point he had to be pulled after five innings. But given a chance to rally against a suspect Phillies bullpen, they fell flat.

Josh Lindblom retired the side in the sixth. Justin de Fratus and Antonio Bastardo combined to retire the side in the seventh. Phillipe Aumont retired the side in the eighth. And Jonathan Papelbon finished things off in the ninth to earn the save.

Pitching lowlight: What to make of Detwiler's start? He was dominant early, awful for a stretch in the middle and then dominant again to end his night. Unfortunately, that awful stretch in the second and third innings far overshadowed the good work he provided around it. The left-hander was hurt by a pair of long balls: homers by rookie Darin Ruf and veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz.

But Detwiler's biggest infractions weren't the balls that left the yard. They were the ones that never found the strike zone. He issued three walks in a span of four batters, including two straight to open the bottom of the third. Both, of course, wound up scoring, underscoring the cardinal sin nature of those free passes.

Key stat: Ryan Zimmerman (2006, 2009) and Adam Dunn (2009-10) are the only players in Nationals history to drive in 100 runs in a season. Both Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche are on pace to reach that figure this year.

Up next: The series continues at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday when John Lannan tries to overcome his Citizens Bank Park demons (he's 1-5 with a 7.06 ERA in his career here) against Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick.

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Cole struggles early, bullpen cracks late as Nats fall to Marlins

Cole struggles early, bullpen cracks late as Nats fall to Marlins

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 7-4 loss over the Miami Marlins on Friday night at Nationals Park.

How it happened: If the Nationals want to sew up home field advantage in their first playoff series, they still have more work to do — and only have two more games to do it.

The Nats were unable to help their cause Friday night, falling to the Marlins 7-4 in a rain-soaked affair that began nearly two hours after its scheduled start time.  

While the offense couldn’t come through late, it was starter A.J. Cole that put the Nats in a bind in this one. The 24-year-old rookie right hander forcing Dusty Baker to go to his bullpen early after yielding four runs (two earned) on six hits in just three innings of work.

But all it took was one inning for the Nats to even things up. Anthony Rendon and Stephen Drew opened the fourth with back-to-back solo home runs, and RBI hits by Jose Lobaton and Trea Turner make it 4-4 heading into the fifth.

The bullpen subsequently cracked, however, yielding a runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings to give the Marlins a 7-4 edge. The offense couldn’t mount a late rally, and that was all she wrote.

What it means: The magic number for home field advantage in the NLDS remains at two. As of this post, the Dodgers have yet to complete their game against the Giants, so there’s still a chance it could fall to one by Saturday morning.

Rendon reaches homer milestone: With his fourth-inning solo shot, Rendon became the latest Nats hitter join the 20 home run club. In fact, the Nats tied the 1965 and 2003 Braves as the only National League clubs with six players with 20-plus long balls in a season. (Interestingly enough, the Cardinals mathed that feat the Nats later in night after a Matt Holliday home run.)

But back to Rendon: For all the talk that the Nats offense sans Wilson Ramos will suffer, remember that Rendon has been one of the team’s best hitters since the All-Star break. Since then, he’s notched 11 homers, 20 doubles and 51 RBI. In other words, he’s fully returned to his ‘Tony Two-Bags’ form of 2014.

More accolades for Turner: D.C.’s favorite rookie had another one of his patented performances Friday night, going 2-for-3 with an RBI single, a triple and two stolen bases. He became the fourth player in MLB history to notch 10 home runs and 30 steals in less than 100 games, joining Rickey Henderson, Bobby Bonds and current Nats first base coach Davey Lopes. Since the break, he leads the team in both extra-base hits and steals. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Harper struggles: In his first game back since injuring his left thumb, Bryce Harper looked looked very much like a hitter trying to regain his timing at the plate. In four at-bats, he struck out four times — three of them swinging. It’s just one game, of course, but he and the Nats are quickly running out of time to rev up for October.

Up next: The Nats will continue their quest to gain home field advantage in the middle game of this three-game set. Washington will send Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.86 ERA) to the hill to oppose Marlins lefty Wei-Yin Chen (5-4, 5.02 ERA).

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Nationals honor Jose Fernandez before series opener against Marlins

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Twitter: @MiamiHerald

Nationals honor Jose Fernandez before series opener against Marlins

The first game of the Nationals series against the Marlins started late after a nearly two-hour-long rain delay. However, before the first pitch, the Nats played a tribute to Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, whose recent death has left the entire MLB community in shock.

A video tweeted by @masnNationals shows both teams standing on the field, while the clips of Fernandez play on the video board in center field. 

The Marlins twitter also shared a video of the pre-game tribute.

Gio Gonzalez, who was good friends with Fernandez and attended his funeral on Thursday, is seen with tears in his eyes, waving his hat toward the sky. Gonzalez also hung a Fernandez jersey in the Nationals' dugout prior to the game. 

The Diamondbacks left a message for the Marlins in the visitor's clubhouse at Nationals Park before leaving town Thursday. 

Fernandez's death is reaching even further than baseball. The Miami Hurricanes tweeted a picture of decals they added to their helmets for their game tomorrow against Georgia Tech.

It is clear that although Jose may be gone, he will always be rememered by the entire sports community.