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Washington Nationals drop 5-4 decision to Miami Marlins on Justin Maxwell walk-off

Gio Gonzalez tossed two scoreless. Lucas Giolito made his Grapefruit League debut. Michael Taylor and Wilmer Difo hit home runs. A big day in Florida as the Washington Nationals dropped a 5-4 decision to the Miami Marlins when Justin Maxwell hit a walk-off winner.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Gio vs the Fish:

Gio Gonzalez averaged 5 ⅔ innings per start over 31 outings for the Washington Nationals last season, in what was his fourth campaign in the nation's capital. He also walked more batters per nine innings (3.54 BB/90 than he had in his three previous seasons in D.C.

He told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier this week that his goal in 2016 was to go deeper in his starts by pounding the zone and challenging hitters.

"I definitely want to minimize that four or five inning stuff," Gonzalez said. "I want to go up now seven or eight innings, even if I have to slow it down on strikeouts, I'd take seven or eight innings and four or five strikeouts."

The key to getting deeper into his starts, he said, was to throw strikes.

"It's just pound the strike zone, be aggressive in the strike zone, be confident in all three pitches, and it doesn't matter what count you're in, it's always best to be ahead in the count, obviously, but in any count you're in you want to be as aggressive as possible, it doesn't matter, you still have a chance to get that out."

The most he was going to throw this afternoon, in his first Grapefruit league outing of 2016, was two innings.

Gonzalez got three fly ball outs in a 14-pitch first, and worked around back-to-back, two-out singles for a scoreless 13-pitch second that left him at 27 total after two.

The Return of Arroyo:

Dusty Baker was impressed with Bronson Arroyo's work early this Spring and in the Nationals' intrasquad games last weekend, but he said the true test will come when the right-hander, who missed all of 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, starts trying to pitch on a regular basis.

How will he know if Arroyo is back to full strength?

"It's really going to come from him," Baker explained. "He'll tell me. The main sign is going to be once he gets to multiple innings how he responds in between days."

In his return to competitive action today, Arroyo, 39, worked around a leadoff single for a scoreless third inning against the Marlins, but the Fish got to the veteran hurler in the second, scoring two runs on three hits before he recorded an out.

He ended up giving up four hits, two walks and the two runs as the Nationals fell behind 4-1.

Giolito vs the Marlins:

Lucas Giolito made his Grapefruit League debut in the bottom of the fifth inning of this afternoon's game, striking Don Kelly out in his first matchup. Former Nats' outfielder Justin Maxwell went down swinging at a 2-2 curve.

Marlins' first baseman Xavier Scruggs fell behind 1-2 to Giolito and sent a grounder to short on which Wilmer Difo committed an error. E:6 on the throw.

Fish catcher J.T. Realmuto fell behind 0-2 and K'd swinging at a 1-2 fastball for out and K no.3 for Giolito in a quick scoreless frame. 22-pitch frame.

In his second inning of work, Washington's 21-year-old prospect gave up a leadoff single to right by Marlins' outfielder Brady Shoemaker, but retired the next three batters in order in an eight-pitch frame that left him at 30 pitches total, 22 strikes.

Lucas Giolito's Line: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 Ks, 3 GO, 30 P, 22 S.

Game Notes:

Michael A. Taylor, who's battling for a spot in the outfield this Spring, homered off Marlins' right-hander Adam Conley in the second to get the Nationals out to a 1-0 lead.

Wilmer Difo, who is down on the depth chart among infielders, hit a 3-run HR off Marlins' righty Brian Ellington in the 5th to put the Nationals up 4-2 after they fell behind in the bottom of the fourth.

Difo also committed is third error of the Spring, however, throwing low to first with Lucas Giolito on the mound in the 6th.

Erik Davis and Abel De Los Santos followed Gonzalez, Arroyo and Giolito on the mound this afternoon, with a scoreless inning each.

Paolo Espino came on for the ninth and gave up two singles and a walk-off three-run home run by Justin Maxwell. Yes, that Justin Maxwell. 5-4 Fish.