The Washington Nationals lost three out of the last five games played, yet managed to stay ahead of division rival Atlanta Braves for the lead in the National League East. Washington lost (2-1) it’s road series, on July 28-30, with the Miami Marlins, and then took two more losses in the first three games of a four-game home series against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 31-Aug. 2. A toughweek like this would have typically bumped the Nationals from the division lead but fortunately, the second-place Braves had a tougher week, losing their last five games. Washington holds 59-49 record, as of Aug. 3, just 2.5 games ahead of the Braves (58-43) for the lead.

Denard Span, Adeiny Hechavarria

Washington Nationals runner Denard Span (2) steals second on a late throw to Miami Marlins short stop Adeiny Hechavarria (3) during the first inning of a baseball game in Miami, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

July 28-30: Nats Fall in Series to Marlins

Washington was expecting to win Game One of their three game series against Miami on July 28. The Nationals led, 6-3, heading into the ninth inning, but relief pitcher Rafael Soriano picked up his 4th blown save of the season by giving up four runs in the ninth, giving away the win to the Marlins. Soriano’s poor finish wiped out the solid performance from starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, who allowed just four hits and two runs with six strikeouts in the first seven innings.

The Nationals lost Game Two of the series, 3-0, due to another round of poor pitching late in the game. Stephen Strasburg got the start at pitcher and lasted seven innings while giving up just four hits and one run. However, relief pitcher Jerry Blevins blew it in the eighth inning, giving up two earned runs to put the win in the bag for the Marlins. Washington also struggled offensively, recording just five hits total as a team.

Washington did, however, avoid the series sweep by winning Game Three, 4-3, on July 30. Tanner Roak was outstanding at starting pitcher with seven strikeouts and only three hits and one earned run allowed in seven innings pitched. Relief pitcher Drew Storen gave up two runs in the 9th inning but still found a way to close out the game for the save.

July 31-Aug. 2: Nationals Lose Two of Three to Phillies

Starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez had one of his worst performances of the season in Game One of the Nationals’ four game series with the Phillies as he gave up eight hits and five runs in just four innings pitched as the Nats’ lost, 10-4, to the Phillies on July 31. Philly was on fire from the plate with 17 total hits recorded against the Nationals. Meanwhile, Washington had just eight total hits as they struggled on offense.

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins waits for the throw as Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon safely steals second base during the first inning of a baseball game at Nationals Park Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The pitching was a lot better the following night during Game Two of the series as starter Doug Fister played into a pitching duel with Philadelphia’s Roberto Hernandez. Both pitchers lasted late into the game on the mound; Fister lasted seven innings but gave up a home run in the sixth inning that made the difference in a 2-1 win for the Phillies.

Fortunately for the Nationals, both their hitting and pitching struggles ended in Game Three of the series, Aug. 2 as they crushed the Phillies, 11-0. Third baseman Anthony Rendon led the way with four RBI’s off three hits, including his 14th home run of the season.  Zimmermann was strong on the mound, giving up just five hits and no runs in seven innings.

Next-up: Washington will face the Phillies in the series finale on Sunday before taking on the Baltimore Orioles in a make-up game Aug. 4. Washington will then host the New York Mets in a three-game series on Aug. 5-7, followed by a road trip with the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 8-10.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor