Livan Hernandez rebounded from his worst start of the season with seven strong innings. It was marred by one loud mistake — the way Florida starter Anibal Sanchez has dominated Washington both this season and throughout his career, that was simply way too many.
Hernandez gave up a towering home run to Mike Stanton in the seventh inning while Sanchez continued his sustained dominance over Washington, extending his career-long winning streak against the Nationals to give the Florida Marlins a 1-0 victory on Saturday.
The Nationals eked only three hits in eight innings against Sanchez while dropping their third straight game. Marlins closer Leo Nunez gave up a walk and a single to start the ninth, then escaped the first-and-second jam for his 14th save in 14 chances.
It was also the third straight loss for Hernandez (3-5), who allowed six hits and one run with four strikeouts and two walks.
"He threw a great game. His curveball was outstanding," Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. "There is a lot of sauce in that lineup that can hit the ball out of the ballpark."
Logan Morrison singled in the top of the seventh, but was caught stealing for the second out. The crafty Hernandez tried to sneak in a 2-2 fastball to Stanton, but the slugger sent a high drive far beyond the center-field wall, a shot that landed on a concourse in front of a bar.
"It's still hard even when you know what's coming to stay back on that pitch," Stanton said. "I was ready for him to mix in a fastball — and that's what he did."
Stanton has hit six home runs in his last eight games in Washington — all won by the Marlins.
"Stanton hits the ball as hard as anybody in major league baseball," Riggleman said. "He hits balls with the trajectory of a single and they go out of the ballpark."
Hernandez then allowed a double and walk, but struck out Sanchez to end the threat. Relievers Doug Slaten, Henry Rodriguez and Cole Kimball pitched the final scoreless two innings.
"I pitched good, can't be frustrated," Hernandez said. "It's a good ballgame. Good pitching, but didn't hit enough."
The Nationals' offense has struggled throughout the season, but in the four games since last facing Sanchez on May 8, they've scored 24 runs.
Still, failing to produce offense against the Marlins right-hander is hardly surprising. Six seasons worth of evidence says so.
Sanchez (3-1) struck out nine and walked two. He improved to 7-0 lifetime against the Nationals with a 1.99 ERA.
"He's been like that against us pretty much every time," Riggleman said. "You can just play the tape. The comments I've made in the past apply again today."
Last week in his previous start, Sanchez held the Nationals hitless until the seventh inning and struck out a career-high 11. He dominated them this time, too, allowing only Laynce Nix's second-inning single, Jayson Werth's double in the seventh and Roger Bernadina's single in the eighth.
After Nix's single, Sanchez (3-1) retired the next 14 batters before walking Bernadina with two outs in the sixth. Werth doubled to lead off the seventh.
"It's an eclectic mix. He's got good stuff," Werth said. "I think everybody knows that. He's a good pitcher."
Certainly Werth does. The Nationals' big free-agent acquisition had just two hits and struck out 19 times in his first 24 at-bats against Sanchez before his seventh inning hit.
NOTES: Hernandez has now thrown 3,003 2-3 innings in his career. ... Kimball, recalled earlier on Saturday by Washington from Triple-A Syracuse, pitched a scoreless ninth in his major league debut. The Nationals designated RHP Brian Broderick for assignment. Broderick was obtained in the Rule 5 draft from St. Louis in December and was 0-1 with a 6.57 ERA in 11 appearances. He was the losing pitcher in Friday's 6-5, 11-inning loss to Florida. Kimball made 12 appearances for Syracuse, and didn't allow a run in 13 2-3 innings. ... Washington SS Ian Desmond did not start because of a sore left quadriceps muscle. ... Nationals C Wilson Ramos threw out Logan Morrison and Hanley Ramirez on steal attempts. Ramos has nabbed seven of 14 would-be basestealers this season. ... Washington equaled a franchise-high by playing its ninth straight errorless game.