MIAMI (AP)The Nationals blew a late two-run lead to lose, and less than an hour later, their advantage atop the NL wild-card race was gone, too.
Three relievers each gave up an extra-base hit in a seventh-inning meltdown Sunday, and Washington’s streak of 11 consecutive wins against the Miami Marlins ended with a 5-3 defeat.
The Brewers (86-70) subsequently closed out a 4-3 victory over the Pirates to pull into a tie with the Nationals (85-69) at the top of the wild-card standings – Washington leads by one percentage point with two fewer games played. The Cubs lost 3-2 to the Cardinals and remained four games behind Washington and Milwaukee.
”To bounce back after a tough loss is critical for us,” Nationals reliever Hunter Strickland said. ”We have to find a way.”
Strickland and Wander Suero (6-9) allowed two runs apiece in the seventh, and Tanner Rainey gave up an RBI triple by Starlin Castro as the Marlins rallied from a 3-1 deficit in a four-run inning.
”I’m not really concerned,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said regarding his bullpen. ”I trust these guys. Guys come in one day and look really good and get big outs. Next day it just doesn’t happen. Let’s just get consistent.”
The collapse came against the Nationals’ favorite foils. Miami averted a three-game sweep and finished 4-15 against Washington this year.
Austin Dean started the Marlins’ comeback by leading off the seventh with his fifth homer against Strickland. Following a hit batsman and a walk, Jon Berti hit a two-run double off Suero to put Miami ahead, and Castro’s hit capped the rally.
”Kind of broke the floodgates open,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
Washington starting pitcher Austin Voth drove in a run with a single for his first major league hit and left after five innings with a 3-1 lead. The Nationals have lost his past four starts.
”Voth gave us everything he had,” Martinez said.
Jeff Brigham, helped by two fine defensive plays, pitched a perfect ninth for his first career save.
”There’s no better feeling than getting the ball in that situation,” said Brigham.
Miami starter Pablo Lopez allowed three runs in five innings and remained winless since June 15, before he was sidelined for more than two months by a shoulder injury. The Nationals started the game with three consecutive singles to take a 1-0 lead, but a nifty 3-6-1 double play helped Lopez escape further damage.
”We’re lucky the game didn’t get away right there,” Mattingly said.
Washington finished 43-38 on the road. Miami finished 31-50 at home, worst in the National League.
For the second time in the series, Suero made an errant pickoff throw to first base.
”It is the same thing that is happening with my pitching command,” the Dominican said through a translator. ”I try to put it in a spot where all the first baseman needs to do is grab it and tag. But because of how my ball is moving lately, I am missing with the pickoff throws.”
Nationals: INF Asdrubal Cabrera, who hurt his right ankle on a play at the plate Saturday, struck out as a pinch hitter in the eighth.
Marlins: CF Magneuris Sierra left the game in the eighth inning with a hamstring strain that will end his season. Sierra, who has been staking a claim this month to consideration for a spot in the lineup next year, had a double and a triple and robbed Adam Eaton of an extra-base hit. Sierra batted .350 in 15 games.
The announced crowd was 19,702, hiking the Marlins’ season total to 811,302. That’s an increase of 198 over 2018, but they finished last in the NL in attendance for the 14th time in the past 15 years.
Nationals: They have eight games to go, all at home, and begin a five-game series against the Phillies on Monday with LHP Patrick Corbin (13-7, 3.10) scheduled to start. Washington is 3-0 in Corbin’s starts against Philadelphia this year.
Marlins: They have seven games left, all on the road, and start a four-game series Monday at the Mets with LHP Caleb Smith (9-10, 4.24) scheduled to start.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine