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Marlins fall to Nats as Elieser struggles, Soto shines

Washington took the season series from Miami, 11-8.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins went into Wednesday night’s action two games ahead of the Nationals for fourth place in the NL East. Due to a rough outing by Elieser Hernandez and excellence from Juan Soto, the Marlins fell to the lowly Nationals, 7-5.

Before the game, Don Mattingly described Elieser’s season as “okay, but probably not as consistent as he’d like it to be”. That trend continued on Wednesday night as he got hit pretty hard and gave up some free passes. Hernandez made just his 10th start of the season, having been sidelined for most of the campaign due to injuries.

After a promising top of the first, things got ugly for Hernandez in the second. To lead it off, Yadiel Hernandez took him deep to straight away center field. The homer went 399 feet according to Statcast. Although Hernandez also allowed hits with exit velocities of 104.9 & 101.3 to Alex Avila and Luis Garcia, respectively, he got out of the inning with no further damage.

Trouble followed Elieser the rest of the way. After allowing a leadoff single to Alcides Escobar in the third, Juan Soto belted a 2-run shot to right, making it 3-0 Nationals. An inning later, Luis García connected on his second “barrel” of the day, this one going over the right field fence, increasing the lead to 4.

Nationals starter Josiah Gray, who recently graduated from MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, dominated the Marlins through 3. His first blemish came in the 4th, when Lewis Brinson roped a 2-out double to left center, and Lewin Díaz followed with an RBI single, making it 4-1 Nats.

Elieser’s night would come to an end in the top of the fifth. After he walked both Escobar and Soto to lead off the inning, Mattingly went to Steven Okert to try and mitigate the situation. Okert did just that, inducing a 5-4-3 double play from Josh Bell, then retiring Yadiel Hernandez on a flyout.

Hernandez’s final line: 4 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 3 HR.

The Marlins had a bit of a rally cooking in the 6th. With one out, Bryan De La Cruz drove a triple into the right field corner, and scored on a sharply hit single by Jesus Sanchez. Brinson followed with a single of his own, but Gray was able to retire the next two batters to keep it a 4-2 ballgame through 6.

The game unraveled for the Marlins in the 7th. Zach Thompson, who since moving to the bullpen had sported an impressive 1.29 ERA, struggled mightily. He couldn’t throw strikes and allowed plenty of hard contact. Thompson was removed without finishing the inning, with the Nationals’ lead at 7-2. Sean Guenther came in to record the final two outs of the frame. Juan Soto finished the game 3-for-3 with 3 RBI and 2 BB, falling a triple short of the cycle but raising his season on-base percentage to an otherworldly .466.

The Marlins almost made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth, as pinch hitter Nick Fortes crushed his 3rd home run in just his 10th career at-bat, making him 6-10 as a major leaguer, and fellow catcher Sandy León homered later in the inning, thinning the margin to 7-5.

Alas, the Marlins fell by that score, dropping to 64-88. They are now only one game ahead of the last-place Nationals, who improved to 63-89.

The Marlins have an off day Thursday while they travel to Tampa to face the Rays. That series begins on Friday night at the Trop with rookie Edward Cabrera on the mound.