Game in a nutshell: They came out to watch Stephen Strasburg make his final home start of the season. They wound up watching the soon-to-be-shutdown ace get rocked again by the pesky Marlins, knocked out after allowing five runs in only three innings. That certainly put a damper on the evening, only made worse when rookie right-hander Jacob Turner all but shut down the Nationals' lineup for six innings. Then Ozzie Guillen handed the ball to his bullpen, and guess what happened? Yep, the Nationals came storming back, scoring three runs off Carlos Zambrano in the seventh and then getting the game-tying homer from Michael Morse in the eighth. Just like that, the game was tied 6-6 and headed for a dramatic finish. Bryce Harper supplied the firepower, throwing out Greg Dobbs at the plate to prevent the tying run from scoring in the top of the ninth, but neither Harper nor Ryan Zimmerman could drive in the winning run in the bottom of the inning. So the game went extras, with Tyler Clippard forced to pitch in a non-save situation. The Nats closer promptly gave up Jose Reyes' two-run triple and then a sacrifice fly that brought home the third run of the top of the 10th. The Nationals tried to mount one more rally in the bottom of the inning, getting a fluke assist when Morse's liner struck second base umpire Tony Randazzo to score Adam LaRoche. But with the bases loaded and one out, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth each struck out. Thus the Nationals suffered a frustrating loss, which combined with the Braves' 3-0 win in New York closed the gap in the NL East to 6 12 games.
Hitting highlight: They were stymied all night by Turner (aside from Zimmerman's first-inning homer) but the Nationals lineup sprung to life once the Miami bullpen took over. Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Kurt Suzuki all recorded big hits in the seventh. Morse then provided the big blast in the eighth that tied the game. It was his 13th homer of the season, 10 of them hit to the right of straightaway center field. This one energized the crowd for a little while, but the ballpark fell silent again when the rest of the Nationals lineup couldn't produce the game-winning hit late.
Pitching lowlight: What can you say? Strasburg just wasn't any good. He walked the very first batter of the night, and things only went downhill from there. He served up homers to both Rob Brantley and Giancarlo Stanton, each on fastballs right down the heart of the strike zone. He walked three batters. And he needed 67 pitches to get through only three innings. It was an incredibly disappointing way for Strasburg's home finale to play out, and it left the crowd in a state of shock and not sure how to respond. In the end, it's perhaps not that surprising Strasburg struggled like this. He's been wildly inconsistent during the second half of the year, alternating between dominant and eminently hittable. That's a trademark description of how pitchers in their first full year back from Tommy John surgery often look.
Key stat: The ERAs of the Nationals' five starters since the All-Star break: Ross Detwiler 2.79, Gio Gonzalez 3.05, Edwin Jackson 3.47, Jordan Zimmermann 3.67, Stephen Strasburg 3.73.
Up next: The series continues with a rare, 1:05 p.m. Saturday matinee. Detwiler seeks to become the fourth member of the Nats rotation with 10 wins. Ricky Nolasco starts for the Marlins.