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Instant Analysis: Johnson dominates in Marlins win

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Instant Analysis: Johnson dominates in Marlins win

Game in a nutshell: Retaking the field only 25 minutes after earning a 7-4 victory in the first half of this doubleheader, the Nationals had an opportunity to improve to 22 games over .500 for the first time since the franchise arrived in town and gain some ground on the Braves in the NL East. Instead, they were shut down by a dominant Josh Johnson, who went 8 23 innings and nearly went the distance, ultimately handing it off to Steve Cishek to record the final out. The Nationals' only runs came in the first and then the ninth. In between, they barely threatened against Johnson. Gio Gonzalez was equally as effective most of the night, but the left-hander was done in by a three-run sixth inning, which proved all the offense the Marlins needed to salvage a doubleheader split. The Nats' lead in the NL East is now down to two games.

Hitting lowlight: Remember when Danny Espinosa was on fire at the plate and appeared to have turned his entire season around? Well, he's fallen back into another slump, and the results haven't been pretty. He's now 3 for his last 37, with 17 strikeouts in the process. His 124 strikeouts for the season lead the NL. And it appears the loop in his left-handed swing has returned. The Nationals may need Espinosa to lead off down the stretch after Ian Desmond returns from the DL and bumps Steve Lombardozzi to the bench. But the way he's going at the plate right now, Davey Johnson might not be able to afford to do that.

Pitching highlight: If you look at the final numbers (four runs, nine hits) this doesn't look like a dominant start from Gonzalez. But the final numbers are misleading because three of the runs and five of the hits came in the sixth inning alone. Gonzalez was otherwise brilliant, striking out 10 without walking a batter and keeping his pitch count low enough that there was no question he would take the mound for the eighth inning for the first time this season. The night didn't end well for the lefty, though. After Jose Reyes scored from second base on a grounder to short, Gonzalez turned around and appeared to yell at Espinosa for not looking the runner back around third and preventing him from scoring. For a guy who is normally the consummate teammate, that was not a shining moment for Gonzalez.

Key stat: With a fifth-inning double, Michael Morse extended his hitting streak to 12 games. That's the longest of his career.

Up next: After what surely will be a good night's sleep, these two teams return to the park at 7:05 p.m. tomorrow. Jordan Zimmermann looks for his 20th quality start in 22 tries against Mark Buehrle, who dominated the Nationals in Miami last month.

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Max Scherzer's bid for third no-hitter ends in heartbreak

Max Scherzer's bid for third no-hitter ends in heartbreak

Max Scherzer's bid for the third no-hitter of his big league career ended with one out in the eighth inning, and he then gave up two unearned runs as the Miami Marlins rallied to beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 Wednesday.

After backup catcher A.J. Ellis reached on an infield single for Miami's first hit, an error by first baseman Adam Lind and a hit batter loaded the bases with two outs. Scherzer threw a wild pitch that scored the tying run, and Giancarlo Stanton lined an RBI single -- the Marlins' only other hit -- to put them ahead.

Scherzer (8-5) threw no-hitters against the Pirates and Mets in 2015, and he seemed on his way to another when he began the eighth inning with a 1-0 lead.

He retired 18 in a row before Ellis hit a chopper that bounced in front of the plate and glanced off the tip of Scherzer's glove as he reached overhead for it. The ball rolled to shortstop Trea Turner, who failed in his attempt to make a barehanded pickup and rush a throw.

MORE NATS: 12-3 win over Marlins Tuesday

Official scorer Ron Jernick immediately ruled the play a hit, and Scherzer knew it. He picked up the ball and angrily flung it to the dugout -- not as a souvenir.

Washington totaled five hits against Dan Straily and three relievers. Kyle Barraclough (3-1) pitched the eighth, and A.J. Ramos worked around a two-out single in the ninth for his 10th save.

Scherzer threw a season-high 121 pitches and had 11 strikeouts, reaching double figures for the sixth game in a row, the team's longest such streak such the franchise moved to Washington for the 2005 season.

He lowered his ERA to 2.08, best in the NL. He also leads the league with 145 strikeouts.

The other no-hitter in the majors this year was achieved on the same mound by Miami's Edinson Volquez against Arizona on June 3.

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The crowd of 22,659 for the 12:10 p.m. start included thousands of youngsters on camp day, and they gave the game a scream-filled soundtrack.

The score was 0-0 until Washington's Ryan Raburn hit his first homer of the year in the fifth. Raburn was a late replacement for outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who was scratched because he wasn't feeling well.

That was the only run allowed by Straily, who went six innings.

Scherzer walked Christian Yelich with two out in the first and hit Derek Dietrich with a pitch with one out in the second. That was Miami's last baserunner until the eighth.

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The Nats got hot Tuesday in Miami with 12-3 win over Marlins

The Nats got hot Tuesday in Miami with 12-3 win over Marlins

Gio Gonzalez had some worrisome moments on the mound Tuesday night, including when a friend sitting in the first row behind the Washington Nationals' dugout was hit in the head by a flying bat.

"Next time in the front row everyone will be wearing a helmet," Gonzalez said.

The friend later said he was fine, and Gonzalez felt good too after pitching seven innings to beat the Miami Marlins 12-3.

Gonzalez (7-1) allowed three runs, including two on Marcell Ozuna's 19th homer , but struck out eight and won his fourth consecutive decision.

"Exactly what we needed," manager Dusty Baker said. "Gio's throwing the ball great."

He had plenty of support even before a five-run ninth. Bryce Harper started the scoring with a two-run single that extended his hitting streak to 13 games, and Daniel Murphy had two RBIs and hit his 12th homer . Stephen Drew had three hits and three RBIs, while Ryan Zimmerman drove in three runs with a double and a single.

Gonzalez, who grew up in nearby Hialeah, improved to 7-3 in 13 starts against his hometown team with an ERA of 2.19. He had a cluster of friends and relatives in attendance, and that's where Justin Bour's bat went when it slipped from his hands on a swing in the fifth inning.

"It's good to have friends here, but put them somewhere safe," Gonzalez said.

He said his pal who was hit received a souvenir later as compensation for being clubbed.

"Bour gave him a bat, which is pretty cool on his part, because we want the fans to come back," Gonzalez said.

The left-hander said it was too early to talk about the possibility of pitching in the All-Star game, which will be played in his hometown next month. His teammates are rooting for it.

"Gio has been great," Harper said. "I'm hoping he pitches like this the rest of the first half and gets the start here. It would be incredible to see."

The NL East leaders went 7 for 14 with runners in scoring position, but it was still 0-0 when Edinson Volquez (3-8) walked Michael A. Taylor and Trea Turner in the third inning, and they advanced on a double steal.

With two outs, Harper tried to bunt on the first pitch -- a curious move by the slugger -- and pushed it foul. He golfed the next pitch into center for the Nationals' first hit to put them up 2-0.

"I don't hit Volquez very well," Harper said. "If I can lay a bunt down with a guy at third and get a knock and score a run ... but it worked out."

Pitching to Harper backfired for Miami, so the next time he came to bat, when the Nationals again had a runner in scoring position, Marlins manager Don Mattingly opted for an intentional walk. Zimmerman foiled the strategy with a two-run double.

"They've got a good lineup," Mattingly said. "They put you in a box in a number of ways."

Volquez allowed a season-high six runs in 4 2/3 innings.

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