WASHINGTON -- For the second time in almost two weeks, right-hander Ricky Nolasco proved to be too much for the Nationals as they were blanked by the Marlins, 8-0, at Nationals Park on Sunday afternoon. Miami ended up winning the three-game series, two games to one.
Nolasco looked like the same pitcher who blanked Washington on Aug. 28 in Miami. He kept the ball down, while the Nationals had a difficult time picking up his fastball, changeup and curveball.
"The Marlins didn't seem to have any problems putting the bat on the ball, but we sure did," Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth said. "I thought he was tough to pick up, for whatever reason. He pitched a good game. What are you going to do?"
Nolasco had a four-hit shutout. He took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Michael Morse singled to left field with one out. The Nationals did not have a runner in scoring position until the eighth inning, when Chad Tracy doubled to right field but was left stranded.
"I felt pretty good, I'm not going to lie," Nolasco said. "Obviously with Morse [in the fifth inning], I made the pitch I wanted to, the first pitch. I kind of tried to do a little too much the second time, and a good hitter like that likes to get extended.
"But that's not the focus of the game. Those are the types of things that if it happens, it happens. I guess if you get through seven [innings] or so, you might start to think about [a no-hitter]."
The Marlins spoiled Edwin Jackson's 29th birthday. They scored six runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings off the righty. It started in the second inning, when Greg Dobbs scored on a single by Rob Brantly.
The sun played a role two batters later. It was bright, and Nationals and Marlins outfielders had difficulty picking up fly balls.
Bryan Petersen had an RBI single, and Nolasco then hit what looked like a routine fly ball to center fielder Bryce Harper. But Harper couldn't see the ball and it dropped two feet to his left for a two-run double.
"That's part of the game," Jackson said. "Sometimes it happens. That is a guy who makes plays for us more times than not. Sometimes, as a starting pitcher, you have to work around it. When the ball gets lost in the sun, it's something he really can't control. It's a tough place. It's one of those things you have to deal with and keep it going."
Said Werth: "It was one of the brightest days I can remember. The sun was in charge out there today, and it didn't help."
Miami scored its sixth run off Jackson in the fifth inning, when Giancarlo Stanton scored on a sacrifice fly by Donovan Solano.
"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.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson was worried about Jackson because he was taking a long time in between pitches.
"He is said he was fine, but [pitching coach Steve McCatty] asked Jackson to speed up his tempo," Johnson said. "He was mad at me for taking him out. He said, 'I'll eat these innings.' He threw 80 pitches. ... For him to give up [nine] hits in less than five innings, that's a lot of hits. I didn't want to push him to the limit."
Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny held the Marlins scoreless for 1 1/3 innings, but the Marlins managed to score off Christian Garcia and Michael Gonzalez. In the seventh inning, Stanton hit a solo homer off Garcia, while Gonzalez gave up an RBI single to Carlos Lee in the next inning.
With the loss, the Nationals dropped their record to 86-54 and are now 5 1/2 games ahead of the Braves in the National League East. The Braves defeated the Mets, 3-2, in 10 innings at Citi Field on Sunday.
The Nationals return to Citi Field on Monday to play a three-game series against the Mets before heading to Atlanta for three games starting Friday.
"We have to take care of business," said catcher Kurt Suzuki. "The series against Miami wasn't our best. We have to hop on the train and go to New York. Start off [the six-game road trip] with a good series."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.