Costly mistakes on defense and feeble offense were a lousy combination Saturday night for the Marlins. Bad baserunning didn't help either, and they lost to the Washington Nationals 5-2.
"We're not helping ourselves," catcher John Buck said. "When we do catch a break, we have mental errors or just not smart baserunning moves."
Buck provided all the scoring for the Marlins with a two-run homer in the second inning. Their only other hit was a bloop single by Mike Stanton, who took a wide turn at first base and was tagged out when right fielder Jayson Werth threw behind him.
"He needs to be a little more careful there," manager Edwin Rodriguez said.
Then there were Helms' two errors at third base, one for obstruction, on a single play to help Washington score twice in the ninth.
As a result, the Marlins have lost three consecutive games for the first time this season.
"I think this is the first time we've been struggling two games in a row," Rodriguez said. "The effort was there, we're just struggling. We've been struggling scoring runs."
Hanley Ramirez went 0 for 4, dropping his average to .195, and Helms struck out three times. Florida has scored a total of four runs in the first two games of the series, but Rodriguez doesn't plan a lineup shakeup.
"There isn't much to switch here," he said. "We have to find a way with the same guys we have out there."
The Nationals stole as many hits as they gave up. Second baseman Danny Espinosa made catches to rob Ramirez and Emilio Bonifacio.
Tom Gorzelanny (2-2) went seven innings and gave up the homer to Buck — the only runs allowed by the left-hander in his past 18 1-3 innings. Sean Burnett pitched a perfect eighth and Drew Storen followed with a 1-2-3 ninth for his seventh save in as many chances.
Florida's final baserunner was Stanton, who singled a teammate to third with two outs in the sixth and the score 3-2. When he took a wide turn, Werth threw behind him and first baseman Adam LaRoche made the tag.
"The timing just worked out perfectly," Werth said. "It's just one of those plays that's hard to explain and you kind of dream about. It just kind of shows up in your lap — the guy took an aggressive turn."
Another pivotal defensive sequence was more like a nightmare for Helms. With Jerry Hairston Jr. at second, pinch-hitter Matt Stairs hit a grounder that rolled under Helms' glove for an error. Hairston slowed to avoid colliding with Helms.
"I just didn't get my glove down enough," Helms said. "Then I looked up, and there he was. It was one of those weird plays."
Hairston was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Bonifacio, but umpire Fieldin Culbreth called Helms for obstruction and ruled Hairston safe at home.
Roger Bernadina, recalled by Washington before the game from Triple-A Syracuse, had two hits and scored a run batting leadoff. He had the first of four consecutive singles to begin the game against Chris Volstad (2-2).
"I tried to get something started, and it turned out well," Bernadina said. "I'm real excited to be back up in the big leagues. I'll definitely try to make something happen."
Ian Desmond singled, tripled, scored twice and drove in a run.
Volstad allowed three runs in six innings. Gorzelanny faced the Marlins for the first time since May 14, 2007, and he had them flummoxed.
"He's very deceptive," Helms said. "He doesn't throw hard, but he mixes his pitches well. He's one of those crafty lefties who rolls with what he's got."
Gorzelanny struck out six, walked four and lowered his ERA to 2.87, but said he struggled to get comfortable on the mound.
"I didn't really feel the best," he said. "I was just trying to battle, get outs quick and find a way."
Desmond tripled in the fifth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Werth to put the Nationals up 3-2. Desmond hiked his lifetime average against Volstad to .611 (11 for 18).NOTES: RHP Anibal Sanchez, scheduled to start Sunday, is 5-0 in 14 starts against Washington with an ERA of 2.34. ... Werth was 1 for 22 lifetime against Volstad before he singled in the first. ... Stairs is 1 for 14 as a pinch-hitter.