Apr 7, 2011, 4:23 AM EDT
Associated Press photo
Ian Desmond had four hits but committed a costly error in the Nats’ 7-4 loss.
MIAMI — The fifth inning was “the story of the ballgame,” Jim Riggleman said, and it’s hard to disagree with the manager’s assessment of tonight’s 7-4 loss to the Marlins. It was during that fifth inning when starter Livan Hernandez turned a four-run lead into a tie game after issuing a pair of two-out walks followed by a bases-clearing triple.
The rest of the evening at Sun Life Stadium went exactly as you’d expect after a momentum shift like that. The Nationals’ bullpen and defense betrayed them, and their lineup went silent against Florida’s relief corps.
The end result: their seventh straight loss to the Marlins, and incredibly their 41st in 55 encounters with their division rivals over the last three-plus seasons.
There may be no surer thing in baseball right now than a Florida victory over Washington, and Riggleman and Co. know it.
“You have to start feeling that you’ve got to put these guys away when you have an opportunity,” the manager said. “They’ve got a good group there, and they’ve had their way with us for a couple years now. There’s nothing to do but battle your way out of it and bust open a ballgame to where they can’t come back.”
There’s the key. As painful as Hernandez’s fifth-inning meltdown was, it could have been moot had the Nationals simply taken advantage of their earlier opportunities to pile on and erase any realistic thought of a comeback.
NL EAST STANDINGS
x-Clinched division title
THU: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
Follow us on Twitter
- Nationals' backups fall to Braves in series finale in Atlanta
- Nats will keep playing, try to secure No. 1 seed
- Nationals going with all backups tonight vs. Braves
- Nationals' division titles are no small achievement
- Nationals Stock Watch: NL East champs have plenty of risers
- Matt Williams quotes Robert Frost in postgame speech (VIDEO)
- VIDEO: Nats celebrate NL East title with loud music, lots of beer
- Nationals players react to winning NL East on Twitter
- PHOTOS: Harper wears custom firefighters helmet to celebrate
- Nationals clinch NL East with victory in Atlanta