Strange things seem to happen when the Washington Nationals play the Florida Marlins, usually with the Nats on the wrong end of things. You can add another chapter to that story, as a dropped routine pop-up in the bottom of the tenth inning came around to score, handing the Nats their third loss in four games to start the season.
Drew Storen cruised through a scoreless ninth inning, pumping 95 MPH fastball past Marlins hitters. Manager Jim Riggleman asked Storen to come back out for the tenth, and that's where things got untracked.
Leadoff hitter Omar Infante took a defensive swing at another heater in on his hands after a great sequence of pitches by Storen, and lofted a harmless pop fly to very short right field. Second baseman Danny Espinosa floated back and camped underneath of it to make the catch. For some reason, Jayson Werth felt like he needed to make the catch and called the rookie off.
But in doing so, Werth broke his own concentration and tried to make a running, basket catch. The ball kicked off the heel of his glove and fell safely to the grass.
If you've been a Nats fan for any length of time, you know what comes next.
Storen, clearly shaken, started Hanley Ramirez off with a ball, then threw an outside fastball that catcher Wilson Ramos couldn't handle and Infante went down to second. The Nats then took the bat out of Ramirez' hands to face 1B Gaby Sanchez. Storen got to 1-2 quickly on Sanchez, but the Marlin fought off a tough couple of pitches to get to 3-2 before singling to left, loading the bases.
At that point Riggleman summoned Sean Burnett, who got lefty Logan Morrison to fly out to short center with the Nats deploying five infielders, then struck out catcher John Buck. But Burnett's luck didn't hold out, as backup infielder Donnie Murphy lined a single to left on an 0-1 count to end the game.
Storen deserved better. He had his best fastball going, combined with a slider that broke late and hard. He made his pitch on the 2-2 count to Infante and his defense let him down.
Nats starter Jason Marquis deserved better too. He was sharp in his 6 1/3 innings, allowing just two earned runs on six hits and no walks, striking out two. He threw 78 pitches, 54 for strikes. He was relieved by Tyler Clippard in the seventh and Clippard could not strand Marquis' last baserunner, which tied the game at two at that point.
The Nats scored a run in the top of the first on a two-out single fly by Michael Morse and another in the third on Ryan Zimmerman's first home run of the season.
THE GOOD: Jason Marquis. His first start of the season could not be described as scintillating, but he did his job, keeping the ball down in the zone and generating ground ball outs (11 GO-5 FO).
THE BAD: Werth's error. That play has to be made. HAS TO. It was a routine pop-up when the pitcher made his pitch in extra innings. These are the things we were told weren't going to happen again.
THE UGLY: We're already seeing Ryan Zimmerman being pitched around, and it's only the fourth game of the season. He was walked three times sandwiched around his solo home run and in the three walks combined he saw one strike total. That's being pitched around, my friends. The only times the Marlins came after him were when he led off innings twice.
THE STATS: Eight hits, seven walks. 1-for-8 with RISP; 12 LOB. Two errors (Zimmerman-1, Werth-1).
NEXT GAME: Wednesday v. Florida Marlins at 7:10 pm. Livan Hernandez (0-1, 2.84) v. Chris Volstad (0-0, 0.00)
NATS NOTES: Jerry Hairston played second base and led off for the Nats. He went 0-for-4, extending the hitless streak at the No. 1 spot in the order to four games and 16 at bats.
Rick Ankiel went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, but did walk twice. He's now 1-for-12 on the season with five strikeouts; his only hit was home run in the Nats win last Saturday.
The Nats had a potential run wiped out when Jerry Hairston and third base coach Bo Porter crossed signals when Hairston rounded third trying to score on Werth's double to the left field corner in the eighth inning. Hairston tried to apply the brakes when he saw Porter's stop sign, but it was much too late and Hariston was a sitting duck.