Instant analysis: Marlins 2, Nats 1

Instant analysis: Marlins 2, Nats 1
July 15, 2012, 1:55 am
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Game in a nutshell: This figured to be tightly contested pitchers' duel, with lefties Gio Gonzalez and Mark Buehrle each known for working fast and throwing strikes. Each starter lived up to the billing, but Buehrle was just a little bit better than his counterpart. The veteran southpaw allowed one run over seven innings, throwing a scant 86 pitches in the process. Gonzalez certainly pitched well enough to win -- two runs over six innings -- but he was done in by some effective small ball by the Marlins in the bottom of the fifth, producing the winning run.

The Nats couldn't get a rally going against Miami's suspect bullpen and thus suffered a frustrating loss. Combined with the Braves' win over the Mets, their lead in the NL East is now down to 3 games.

Hitting lowlight: Just when you thought Michael Morse had rediscovered his peak form from last year, he stumbles out of the gates to open the second half. For the second straight night, the cleanup hitter went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, two of them called. Morse is at his best when he's able to drive outside pitches to right field. In these last two games, he hasn't been able to pull the trigger on those offerings, and he's paid the price for it.

Pitching highlight: It didn't take long to realize Gonzalez was going to be in top form for this game. His command was pinpoint (he didn't walk a batter) and his curveball had ridiculous break. It helped that umpire Eric Cooper consistently gave him the outside corner of the strike zone, but kuods to Gonzalez for taking advantage of it. He wound up striking out nine and at 93 pitches probably could have returned for the seventh inning. Manager Davey Johnson, though, said he wanted to take things easy on the lefty after he pitched an inning in the All-Star Game four days ago.

Key stat: Buehrle needed only 26 total pitches to face 11 Nationals batters through the first three innings.

Up next: Fresh off his All-Star debut, Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound for his first start of the second half. He'll face Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco at 1:10 p.m.