Jose Fernandez's no-hit bid ended with one down in the sixth on a swinging bunt by Washington Nationals' prospect Zach Walters, whose first MLB hit rolled down the third base line and died in the infield grass.
"We all got a good laugh out of that," Davey Johnson said, of one of the few positive moments of the game for the Nats. "And his first big league hit, he breaks up a no-hitter with a big smash. He led the International League in home runs, and his first up here is a swinging bunt. But he'll take it, I'm sure."
Fernandez, 21, in what was reportedly the penultimate start of a Rookie-of-the-Year-worthy campaign, threw seven scoreless though, on 94 pitches and the Miami Marlins beat the Nationals for the fourth time in seven games between the NL East division rivals in Marlins Park in 2013.
"He really used all his pitches," Johnson said in praising the Marlins' starter's effort. "He was really attacking our hitters, going after everybody and throwing strikes and that's key. He had good location. Good fastball. Good breaking stuff. And... once or twice he got behind in the count, he was really very aggressive. Had a good changeup to go with his good fastball and breaking stuff. And [Dan] Haren, on the other hand... had his problems and I was a little worried about him. I took him out after three, I was worried about his hand too. I wanted to give the guys in pen some work."
Haren took a chopper back to the mound off his bare right hand in the second, with the Nationals already behind 3-0 in the 32-year-old pitcher's 26th start of the year of the year. "It was his ring finger. And I don't know how much that affects your command," Johnson explained, "but there was no sense at that point in having him continue. But, I knew we weren't going to get many." Logan Morrison's two-run home run in the third inning put the Nats in a 5-0 hole and Haren's start ended at 58 pitches in three innings.
Johnson didn't have any explanation for what went wrong for Haren, who lasted just 2 2/3 innings and gave up nine hits and seven runs last time out against the New York Mets in D.C. and followed that up with three innings tonight in which he gave up six hits, two walks and five runs.
"They put some balls in play," the manager said, "I thought he was throwing pretty good. But, you know, six hits in three innings and that one the first baseman [Morrison] hit, that was a bomb. But, it's just one of those days. You're up against a bus, so you can't give up many." Haren didn't have an explanation either.
"I'm at a loss for words with just the way my season's gone," Dan Haren told reporters after the loss. "To be pretty bad for two or three months and then have two months of being great and then two starts in-a-row where I can't get into the fourth inning, I mean, I have no explanation for it. I feel terrible about it from the team standpoint and personally obviously I don't feel good about it either."
The loss left the Nationals 71-69 on the year. The Cincinnati Reds' win over the Los Angeles Dodgers left the Nats 8.0 games out in the race for the second Wild Card spot.
"We've got to win," Johnson lamented. "We just need to win ballgames. We can't afford to be losing. I mean, period."
• AUDIO: Nats Nightly = NationalsDSP + Federal Baseball:
#Nats Nightly = @NationalsDSP + @federalbaseball talking about the Nats' 7-0 loss to the #Marlins at 10:00 PM EDT: http://t.co/IAtBFXwv1j— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) September 7, 2013
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