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Bench-clearing confrontation a draw as Nationals lose to Marlins 11-2

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MIAMI — The pitch was high and inside to the Washington Nationals' Ian Desmond, and he didn't like it. So he hollered at Miami Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler and spat toward the mound.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia stepped toward Desmond, and a nose-to-nose exchange commenced. That prompted both benches and bullpens to empty.

"No big deal," Desmond said. "It wasn't intended to escalate to what it did."

The confrontation was a draw. The game was all Marlins, who beat Washington 11-2 Tuesday to break an eight-game losing streak.

Stephen Strasburg lasted only four innings and gave up six runs, including three on a homer by Giancarlo Stanton. Washington managed only one hit in seven innings against Koehler.

The score was already 6-0 in the fourth inning when Desmond took exception to Koehler pitching high and inside.

"I wasn't necessarily thinking that he had intentions of hitting me," Desmond said. "You can drill me in the ribs or drill me in the legs. But four or five missing up around the hands around the head ... I'm not claiming it to be on purpose, but you have to be able to control the ball."

What did Desmond holler at Koehler?

"He just told me to throw the ball over the plate," Koehler said. "Obviously — that's how you get strikes."

And what did Saltalamacchia say to Desmond?

"I just said, 'Hey man, we weren't trying to hit you. Just relax,'" Saltalamacchia said.

Umpire Marty Foster stepped between them, and the standoff didn't escalate.

"Just competition — a ball thrown up and in," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "I don't it was intentional. It's just playing the game, guys competing."

PHOTO: Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton follows through on a three-run home run during the first inning of the MLB National League baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton follows through on a three-run home run during the first inning of the MLB National League baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The at-bat ended with Desmond popping out. When he returned to the dugout, he threw his helmet against the wall.

Koehler said he went into the game mindful of the need to pitch inside against the Nationals.

"Guys tend to get a little upset when they get crowded," Koehler said. "They had been attacking fastballs over the plate. It's our job as starters to make sure they know that's our part of the plate. We've been beaten inside too many times late in the game in the last couple of series because we haven't established inside."

Strasburg (1-2) couldn't establish much of anything. He allowed eight hits in four innings, and fell to 2-3 at Marlins Park with an ERA of 8.61.

"We've put together some pretty good at-bats off him over the last couple of years, and had some good games against him," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We had a nice plan. Guys were aggressive. He threw quite a few fastballs early in the count, and we were ready for them."

That has often been the approach of hitters against Strasburg so far this season.

"They don't want me to get comfortable," the right-hander said. "A lot of the dominant pitchers with swing-and-miss stuff, that's what their approach is going to be. I felt I had a good mindset today. It was one of those days where it seemed like every pitch I threw, they hit it."

The Marlins beat Washington for the first time in five tries this season, and for only the third time in 16 meetings since July.

Zach Walters hit his first career homer in the ninth for the Nationals, who totaled five hits.

Miami led 3-0 before Strasburg got an out. Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna singled, and Stanton followed with a homer to center field.

The Marlins added three more runs in the second. Adeiny Hechavarria led off with a triple on his 25th birthday, Ozuna singled home a run and Casey McGehee hit a two-out, two-run single.

Strasburg struck out five to increase his NL-leading total to 33, but his ERA rose to 6.00. The Marlins added five runs in the fifth to make it 11-0.

"One of those games," Williams said. "But nonetheless it's important that we play well, and we didn't. That's troubling."

NOTES: Nationals OF Denard Span (concussion) might be ready for a rehabilitation assignment by the end of the week, Williams said. ... Nationals OF Nate McLouth returned to the lineup after sitting out two games because of a sore left knee. ... Ozuna was back in the lineup after missing one start with a bruised foot. ... The Nationals' Steven Souza singled for his first major-league hit. ... Miami RHP Jose Fernandez tries to improve to 12-0 at home when he pitches Wednesday against Tanner Roark.

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