MIAMI (AP) — Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker was a tad envious when Marcell Ozuna hit a two-out, two-run single for the Miami Marlins in the first inning Monday.
“That two-out RBI has been eluding us,” Baker said.
The Nationals never recovered from the early deficit, losing the opener of a four-game series 6-1.
It was the second loss in a row for the NL East leaders after they started 9-1. But timely hitting has been a problem from the outset, and they stranded 10 runners against nemesis Jose Fernandez and three relievers.
“You have to take advantage of any opportunities you can get,” first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said.
Fernandez (1-1) overcame early wildness and regained his winning touch at home, pitching six innings. The Marlins ace threw 54 pitches in the first two innings but didn’t allow a hit until the fifth.
He improved to 18-1 at Marlins Park, with the lone loss in his previous home start.
Washington’s Bryce Harper went 0 for 2 with a sacrifice fly. He had homered in his previous four games.
“Every time you get him out, you breathe a sigh of relief,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said.
Giancarlo Stanton benefited from the new, cozier dimensions at Marlins Park when he homered near the 407-foot sign in center in the fifth. Last year the ball would have been off the wall.
“It’s not like he really cares how far the fence is,” Fernandez said. “It doesn’t matter to him.”
Tanner Roark (1-2) gave up five runs, four earned, and seven hits in six innings.
The Marlins scored three times in the first. Christian Yelich poked an RBI single past a drawn-in infield with one out, and Ozuna — batting .190 — delivered a two-out, two-run single.
“One bad pitch to Ozuna, that’s about it,” Roark said. “Everything else felt good.”
Fernandez improved to 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA in seven starts against the Nationals. He allowed four walks, three hits and one run while striking out nine.
He threw 103 pitches, including 28 to get through a scoreless second inning, when he hit a batter, walked two — one intentionally — and threw two wild pitches. He struck out Michael Taylor with the bases loaded to end the inning.
“He was effectively wild,” Baker said. “He got in a couple of jams. We had some opportunities.”
The Nationals didn’t manage a hit until Fernandez’s 87th pitch. Michael Taylor doubled with one out in the fifth, took third on a single and scored on Harper’s flyout to make it 4-1.
Zimmerman stranded a runner in each of his three at-bats against Fernandez.
“He just made good pitches when he needed to,” Zimmerman said. “I had pitches to hit but I missed, and you can’t do that against a guy like that.”
Jayson Werth stared at Fernandez after being hit on the left side by a 94 mph fastball.
“Bad timing,” Fernandez said. “Last time I faced him, I hit him with a breaking ball. I’m not trying to hit anybody.”
Harper retreated and stretched in right field to make a running catch and rob Dee Gordon of an extra-base hit, and made a long run to catch Ozuna’s drive on the warning track.
Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.98) is scheduled to pitch Tuesday for the Nationals against Adam Conley (0-0, 3.86).