Cabrera lasted six innings and gave up five runs. He struck out four batters and walked two.
The game started on a positive note for the Nationals, who took a 2-0 lead in the first inning off right-hander Chris Volstad. With runners on first and second and no outs, Ryan Zimmerman hit a routine fly ball to center fielder Cody Ross, who tried to double up Elijah Dukes at first base. But nobody was covering the bag, and the ball went into the Marlins dugout, allowing Cristian Guzman to score and Dukes to move to third base. Four batters later, Austin Kearns singled to center field to drive in Dukes.
But it went downhill after that. Florida did most of its damage against Cabrera in the fifth inning. Down 2-1, Florida's John Baker singled to center field to drive in Ross Gload. Three batters later, the Marlins had the bases loaded when Dan Uggla took a 1-0 pitch from Cabrera and cleared the bases with a double to right-center field.
"I thought everything was good until the fifth inning," Cabrera said. "That was a big inning. That's why we lost the game right there. With two outs, that's when the struggle started. With Uggla, I was trying to put the pitch outside and he hit it."
Although Cabrera was decent, pitching coach Randy St. Claire said Cabrera is not being aggressive on the mound. Cabrera is throwing in the high 80s to low 90s and is trying to be too perfect on the mound. St. Claire wants to see the right-hander throw gas and not worry about how many walks he is going to have in a game. Cabrera is capable of throwing 95 to 96 miles per hour.
"At times, for me, I think he is trying to be too fine, instead of just attacking [the strike zone]," St. Claire said. "I think with his stuff, he can't be fine. He really has to attack the hitters and go after them with his best stuff. When he tries to be too fine, he falls behind in the count.
"I have not mentioned one thing about walks to him because, to me, that isn't the concern. To me, I want to see him get 95, 96 miles per hour back. So the only way he is going to do that is be aggressive. When you throw 96 miles per hour, you can walk a guy. It's hard to hit that pitch. There are a lot of guys that throw 90 to 91 miles per hour."
The Marlins added another run in the seventh inning, when Hanley Ramirez singled off Saul Rivera to drive in Emilio Bonifacio. Left-hander Michael Hinckley was charged with the run.
Nationals infielder Alberto Gonzalez made it a 6-3 ballgame in the top of the eighth inning, when he doubled down the left-field line to drive in Adam Dunn.
The Nationals then made it interesting in the ninth inning against right-hander Matt Lindstrom. With the bases loaded and one out, Adam Dunn walked to send home Nick Johnson. After Josh Willingham struck out swinging, Kearns came to the plate and hit a line drive to left field. It appeared it would fall in for a base hit. However, Brett Carroll dove for ball and caught it to end the game.
"I started screaming at myself [believing the ball was going to drop in]," Acta said. "I thought they had no chance of catching it, but then Carroll made a good play."
The Nationals have lost seven straight games dating back to last season. Dunn acknowledged he was frustrated after getting swept by the Marlins.
"It's kind of an excuse to say that it's only the third game, but we had a chance to win this game and we let it slip," he said. "[The entire series] was awful. It's not how we wanted to start our season. The only thing we can do is put it behind us and clear our minds. There's an off day tomorrow and we take it to Atlanta."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.