WASHINGTON (AP) - The Washington Nationals still have a number of challenges ahead as they work to secure a postseason berth. Fortunately for the Nationals, the Miami Marlins are no longer one of them.
Ricky Nolasco tossed a four-hitter to shut out Washington for the second time in two weeks and Giancarlo Stanton homered for the third straight day to lead the Marlins to an 8-0 win on Sunday.
The Marlins won two of three games in the weekend series against the NL East-leading Nationals (86-54), whose division lead slipped to 5 1/2 games over Atlanta after the Braves beat the New York Mets 3-2 in 10 innings.
``They've got a good ballclub. They play good against us,' Washington manager Davey Johnson said.
Miami, which despite being in last place in the NL East at 63-78, split the 18-game season series with Washington.
``It was a lousy game and good homestand,' Johnson said of the Nationals' 8-3 record during a homestand that had a little bit of everything: bench-clearing altercations, lots of home runs, a torrential downpour, and Stephen Strasburg's final appearance of the season.
Nolasco (12-12), who won his third straight and notched his fourth career shutout, also shut out the Nationals 9-0 on Aug. 28 against Strasburg. The right-hander struck out six and walked one, stifling a team that had scored 43 runs in its five previous games.
``He can get nasty when he starts throwing that changeup and that curveball and hitting the corners with his fastball,' Johnson said.
On a day Johnson rested regulars Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond, Nolasco didn't allow a hit until Michael Morse's one-out single in the fifth. The Nationals didn't get a runner past second base.
``This type of offense will put runs up against you quick,' Nolasco said. ``I was just trying to pitch smart, trying to pitch to a good location and make them put the ball in play.'
Pitching on his 29th birthday, Nationals starter Edwin Jackson (9-10) lasted just 4 2-3 innings, giving up six earned runs on nine hits.
``I have to do a better job making pitches out of the stretch with men on base. I have to do a better job at damage control' Jackson said.
The Marlins broke out in the top of the second. With two outs, Dobbs and Donovan Solano grounded singles up the middle. Rob Brantly followed with another single up the middle, just beyond the reach of a diving Steve Lombardozzi, to score Dobbs.
Nolasco then hit a drive to deep center. Harper went back on the ball, caught up to it, but lost it in the sun. The ball fell beside him and Solano and Brantly scored with Nolasco ending up on second with a double.
``It was nasty. Big sun. Clear, blue sky,' Johnson said. ``You needed to have your hand up there to block it. It was that bright. And Bryce, he was tracking it and if you can't get your glove up there to block the sun and then at the last minute go to it, you're dead. Because he turned around and when he turned back up he couldn't find the ball.'
In the fourth, Solano led off with a walk and advanced to second on a groundout. With two outs, Bryan Peterson singled home Solano and Justin Ruggiano's double to the wall in left-center scored Peterson.
In the fifth, Stanton singled and stole second. He went to third on a bloop single to left by Dobbs and scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Solano.
That was all for Jackson, who was replaced by Tom Goorzelanny.
``I thought Jackson was gonna throw a nasty game the way he started,' Johnson said. ``But then he just started getting more deliberate, more deliberate. He's done that before.'
Stanton hit the first pitch of the seventh inning just over the wall in left for his 33rd homer of the season. He has 11 homers and 20 RBIs in 20 career games in Nationals Park.
NOTES: Jackson was bidding to become Washington's fourth 10-game winner along with Gio Gonzalez (18), Strasburg (15) and Jordan Zimmerman (10). . CIA Director David Petraeus, former Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Washington begins a three-game series at the New York Mets on Monday with Gonzalez (18-6, 2.98 ERA) opposing Collin McHugh (0-1, 3.27). ... Miami continues its road trip in Philadelphia on Monday. Wade LeBlanc (2-3, 2.72) starts for Miami against Kyle Kendrick (8-10, 3.96).
The Associated Press News Service
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