MIAMI -- If starting pitching indeed sets the tone, it is easy to see what has gone wrong for the Marlins during their losing streak.
Miami was hopeful to get a solid performance out of Brad Hand on Monday, but instead the lefty had a short stint, which led to another long night.
Bryce Harper delivered three extra-base hits, Tyler Moore and Sandy Leon each belted home runs and the Nationals rolled past the Marlins, 9-2, in the series opener at Marlins Park.
"We've talked about it all year, pitching is the key," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "We've got to go out there and hold them down, and give our offense a chance. We got down early, and just never could recover."
In three innings, Hand was tagged for five runs on eight hits, with six of them being for extra bases. Kevin Slowey held Washington down for three innings of relief, but in his fourth inning, he was tagged for four runs, and Washington broke the game open.
After going winless in their six-game road trip, the Marlins returned to Miami only to see their overall losing stretch reach eight games. Washington, meanwhile, swept in Atlanta over the weekend, improved to 4-0 against Miami.
The frustration level is mounting in Miami. Because of a fast start, the Marlins are 5-9 overall, or the first few weeks could be much worse.
"To get out of this thing, somebody needs to battle and step up," Redmond said. "That's the bottom line."
Hand made his second start in five days against the Nationals, and both times he was hit hard. At Nationals Park on Wednesday, the lefty was not involved in the decision. But he surrendered a three-run homer to Harper and watched a five-run lead turn into a 10-7 loss.
"We all want to win in this clubhouse," Hand said. "I was trying to go out there and turn it around tonight. I just made too many mistakes, and it's really frustrating."
Hand made the team out of Spring Training as a long reliever, but when Jacob Turner went on the disabled list with a right shoulder sprain, Hand took over. Now, the club is weighing what other options may be available for Saturday against Seattle.
"I don't know yet," Redmond said of the rotation spot. "We've got to figure something out."
During the eight-game losing streak, Marlins starters are 0-5 with a 5.88 ERA. The rough outings by the starters are taking their toll on the relievers.
"It's a concern," Redmond said. "It's a definite concern. You can't roll those guys out every night. You've got seven guys down there. We definitely need to be better. Our starters need to get us deeper into games. That takes some pressure off the bullpen. We haven't been able to do that."
Boosted by a big lead early, Washington right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was able to limit Miami to two runs on six hits in seven innings.
Zimmermann had a huge bounceback outing, because five days ago at Washington, the Marlins scored five runs and knocked him out after 1 2/3 innings.
"He looked better tonight," Redmond said. "He had more [velocity]."
In the early innings, Miami leadoff batter Christian Yelich noted that Zimmermann was stronger.
"Yeli had a comment when he came back that his stuff was better than what we saw in Washington," Redmond said. "He looked a lot crisper. I heard in Washington, he was sick or battling the flu or something. He was a lot better today."
Actually, Yelich was one of the bright spots at the plate. He went 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to nine games, one short of his career high.
In the second inning, Miami got on the board when Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled and scored on Reed Johnson's single to left. Garrett Jones belted a solo homer in the sixth inning, his second shot in as many days.
But most of the big hits were by the Nationals. Leon's homer off Slowey was his first career shot. Harper had a triple and two doubles. Moore chipped in with two hits and two RBIs. Danny Espinosa added a double, triple and an RBI. And Anthony Rendon collected a double and triple and drove in three runs.
"I just think a lot of guys on the team are swinging well," Harper said. "When everyone's swinging it, you want to swing it well and try to get good ABs. It's contagious."
Jones' homer in the sixth inning trimmed Miami's deficit to 5-2. But Leon delivered his two-run homer in the seventh, capping a four-run inning.
"We need somebody step up, and say, 'It's over. I'm done with it,'" Redmond said. "We either need a big pitching performance, or a big hit, or a big play to spark us and get us going. Those guys understand that."