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Washington Nationals vs. Miami Marlins Series Preview: Nats roll into two-game set

The Washington Nationals are playing good baseball as of late and will aim to keep up their strong play during their final trip to Miami this season.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals (76-74) vs. Marlins (58-91) series info:

Game 1: Monday, Sept. 17 at 7:10 p.m. ET (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 7:10 p.m. ET (MASN/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Monday: Erick Fedde (2-3, 5.12 ERA) vs. Trevor Richards (3-9, 4.85)

Tuesday: Stephen Strasburg (8-7, 3.87) vs. Sandy Alcantara (2-0, 1.42)

What to watch for:

Too little, too late

The Nationals have won three straight series (ignoring a postponed single game against the Cubs) for the first time since May 30 when they swept the Orioles for their sixth straight victory. Overall, they’ve won seven of their last nine.

However, the recent stretch of success hasn’t done much to help them in the standings, as the Nationals still find themselves seven and a half games back of the Braves in the NL East. They still can finish second in the division, but FanGraphs gives Washington a 0.7 percent chance of making the playoffs with 12 games left on the schedule.

Grace proving to be a valuable bullpen arm

After three years of bouncing back and forth between the majors and AAA, Matt Grace has finally earned a spot in the Nationals’ bullpen with a strong age-29 season. Sitting with a 2.80 ERA and 1.134 WHIP on the year, Grace has become one of the most valuable lefties on the team.

Looking ahead to next year, only Sean Doolittle, Wander Suero and Grace appear to have roster spots locked in. Grace is still under team control for four more seasons and has shown this season that he can be used situationally (.575 OPS against vs. lefties) and in long relief (eight appearances of two or more innings).

The race against 100 losses

Thirteen games stand in between the Marlins and a much-needed winter, following a season that ownership declared to be lost from the start. Despite last offseason’s fire sale, however, the Marlins still have a good chance at avoiding the third 100-loss season in franchise history.

Miami still has five games with Washington, four against Cincinnati, three against the Mets and one make-up game in Pittsburgh. If the Marlins can manage to win at least five of them, they’ll make the Royals and Orioles the only two teams to reach the century mark this season.

Series history:

The Marlins lead the all-time series (2005-present) by a slim margin of 127-125, including a 70-56 record in Miami. Washington leads the season series 9-5 but has dropped four of its last five against the Fish.