"[Hernandez] threw a lot of pitches that were right around the plate that I think he generally would get people to swing at." -- Jim Riggleman, on the small strike zone in the first inning, Sept. 5, 2009.


THE RESULT: The Washington Nationals felt like they got the short end of the stick from the umpires all night long. Interim manager Jim Riggleman certainly thought first base umpire Andy Fletcher blew two calls, costing Nats base runners each time.

And starting pitcher Livan Hernandez did not receive any benefit from home plate umpire Tim McClelland, as he walked six and gave up eight base hits in his five innings. The end result was a 9-5 loss to the Florida Marlins, before 18,111 and about 100 dogs on "Pups in the Park" night.

© Cheryl Nichols 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Washington lost it's 90th game of the season against 46 wins. They've lost eight in a row, 15 of their last 18 and 18 of their last 24. It's D.C.'s longest losing streak since last August's 12-game loser. The Nats have been outscored 46-20 in the losing streak.

Riggleman came out to argue a close play at first early in the game, as Ryan Zimmerman ground into a 5-4-3 double play in the bottom of the first. Riggs gave it to Fletcher pretty good as Zimmerman calmly removed his batting gloves just past first base, to no avail.

Perhaps Riggleman was just taking his frustration out on the first base ump that should have been reserved for McClelland behind the plate.

Eight of Hernandez' first 10 pitches were called balls. Most of the pitches were just off the corner or hit catcher Wil Nieves' mitt where he called for it, only to be brushed aside by McClelland. The result was three runs in the inning on a double by Jorge Cantu and two-run single by Cody Ross.

Hernandez (L, 7-10, 5.44) left after five innings, trailing 6-1. He threw 107 pitches in his five innings. Victor Garate made his major league debut in the sixth, and was rudely greeted by pinch-hitter Brett Hayes, who hit his first major league home run.

© Cheryl Nichols 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Marlins starter Josh Johnson only went five innings as well, but his night was a little easier than Hernandez. The Cy Young candidate earned his 14th win against four losses, and lowered his ERA to 3.04. He gave up just two hits and one earned run, walking three and striking out just one.

THE TAKEAWAY: Gotta give the Nats credit: they did not quit. They scratched out three runs in the bottom of the seventh and got another one in the ninth. With players fighting for their opportunities, they kept swinging.

Wil Nieves singled up the middle with two on in the seventh, scoring Elijah Dukes, and Josh Bard pinch-hit a double that scored Pete Orr and Nieves.

In the ninth, Justin Maxwell (.139) doubled to deep left center, and his teammate in Syracuse for much of the season, Mike Morse, punched him in with a single.

THE GOOD: Adam Dunn. He went 2-for-4, the only Nat with multiple hits.

THE BAD: Ron Villone. He gave up a run in two-thirds of an inning late. In ended up inconsequential, but how can you mount a comeback if your relief pitchers keep giving up runs?

THE UGLY: Cristian Guzman. He went 0-for-4 with two men left on. He saw 11 pitches.

NEXT GAME: Sunday's matinee is the finale to the three-game set with Florida. J.D. Martin (3-4, 4.60) hosts Anibal Sanchez (2-6, 5.01) at 1:35 pm.