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Washington Nationals Series Preview: Pesky Miami Marlins await in South Florida

The Nationals are red hot, but despite being poor of late, the Marlins always have the potential to be pesky opponents...

MLB: JUN 23 Nationals at Phillies Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Washington Nationals only played two games against the Philadelphia Phillies but, boy, there were enough storylines and dramatic moments to cover at least a week’s worth of baseball.

With Max Scherzer being ready to get naked to prove that he had no sticky stuff on his person in the series opener being quickly followed by the relentless amount of offense and lead-changes in Wednesday’s game, there was barely time for fans to breathe.

When they did breathe though, it was a huge sigh of relief as the Nats swept the two-game set.

The divisional gauntlet for the Nationals continues this weekend with a long four-game weekend series against the Miami Marlins down in South Florida.

Despite being at the bottom of the National League East, the Marlins are not going to be a pushover by any means.

Despite plenty of exciting talent on the offensive side of the ball that could help finally get the Marlins out of their rebuild, they are primarily being carried by a strong rotation that sports a 3.14 ERA and 3.52 FIP that rank third and fifth in the majors respectively.

Here’s the lowdown from the Sunshine State ahead of the four-game set...

The schedule

  • Game One: Thursday, June 24th, 7:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Friday, June 25th, 7:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Saturday, June 26th, 4:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Four: Sunday, June 27th, 1:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Pitching matchups

  • Game One: Joe Ross (3-7, 4.54 ERA) vs Cody Poteet (2-2, 3.90 ERA)
  • Game Two: Jon Lester (1-2, 3.96 ERA) vs Pablo López (3-4, 2.86 ERA)
  • Game Three: Patrick Corbin (5-5, 5.40 ERA) vs Zach Thompson (1-2, 1.50 ERA)
  • Game Four: Max Scherzer (6-4, 2.19 ERA) vs Sandy Alcantara (4-6, 2.93 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Joe Ross: Well, Erick Fedde was in this spot before the previous series and we managed to curse him into having a dud against the Phillies while snapping his scoreless inning streak at 21, so hopefully, we don’t do the same to Ross.

Despite a rough outing against the Mets last weekend — which, let’s be honest, was basically only Francisco Lindor going ham on his pitching — the right-hander has performed pretty well lately.

In his last five starts, Ross sports a solid 2.89 ERA with 29 strikeouts and six walks in 28 innings. It’s a stretch that includes two of his best outings of the season when he went six scoreless against the Phillies and tossed eight shutout innings against the San Francisco Giants.

Ross will get the ball in the series opener on Thursday night and will hope to bounce back from Lindor’s dominant display over him in his last start.

Starling Marte: Marte might be one of the least talked about better hitters in the league so far this season. Perhaps that’s partially down to a rib fracture that cost him about a month’s worth of action, but since he’s returned, he’s been sizzling at the plate.

Since his return on May 28th, Marte is slashing .333/.435/.538 clubbing four home runs while walking 13 times and striking out 17 times in 22 games, hitting primarily second in the order.

If the Marlins continue to languish at the bottom of the division, Marte may not be a Marlin for much longer. He has the potential to be a huge pickup for someone at the trade deadline and will no doubt cause the Nationals some headaches in this four-game set.

Who’s not?

Alex Avila: Admittedly, Avila wasn’t brought in this offseason to be an offensive spark at the plate, but the Nationals would likely have been hoping for more than they’ve been getting in that department lately from their veteran backstop.

Avila is still hitting below the Mendoza Line on the season but at least had some power to go with it. However, since May 26th, he hasn’t even had power, slashing a dismal .142/.314/.179 with only one extra-base hit and 15 strikeouts in 28 at-bats in that span.

Obviously, Yan Gomes is still the team’s primary catcher and will receive more than the lion’s share of starts behind the dish, but it would be nice if Avila could resurrect his bat a bit more and become a solid backup to the Brazilian.

Jazz Chisholm: In the opening days and weeks of the season, Chisholm was one of the big stories with his electrifying play in the field and at the plate, but lately he’s come back down to earth.

In his last nine games, Chisholm is slashing just .139/.205/.167 with one double, three walks, and 12 strikeouts, giving him an underwhelming 13 wRC+ in that time.

Based on his standout performance earlier this season, Chisholm probably won’t stay in this slump for too long, but the Nationals might be catching him at the right time and be able to keep him quiet at the plate.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Marlins storylines from our friends at Fish Stripes...

One more thing to watch

Even though he’s been one of the hottest hitters on the planet in the last two weeks, it’s been notable that Kyle Schwarber has been coming out of games in the later innings.

Nationals skipper, Dave Martinez, mentioned in the last few days that it hasn’t been purely for a late defensive upgrade, he’s also trying to help his left fielder nurse himself through a minor knee issue that he picked up diving for a ball in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago.

“It just locks up on him,” the Nats’ skipper told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s something we just got to continue to look at and hope that over time it gets better.

“I have conversations with him every day, before, after, middle of the game. It’s something that I have to make sure that I’m on top of and we don’t get him hurt.”

That trend continued in Philadelphia as Schwarber came out in the ninth and eighth inning of the first and second games respectively, with Josh Harrison shifting to left field and Jordy Mercer coming in to play second base in place of Harrison.

Funnily enough, both had their adventures after the move. On Tuesday, Harrison and Trea Turner collided on a shallow flyball, then on Wednesday, Mercer took a ball to the face that caused him to bleed on the field before grabbing a line drive to seal a dramatic win.

Obviously, the Nationals would prefer to keep Schwarber out there more often than not to see the game out. But for now, it’s a load management issue for Schwarber and the Nats.

“We’re just going to continue to have these conversations,” Martinez explained. “Kyle competes, likes to play, loves to play, he doesn’t like getting taken out, but for me, we’ve got to be smart, but if we can get him three at-bats, four at-bats, and we got the lead, it’s the right thing to do, not only for the club, but for him, try to keep him out there.”

It’s even more remarkable that Schwarber is hitting like he is with the slight nagging issue with his knee, but until it gets resolved, expect him to keep coming out late in games, or perhaps to be given an extra day-off, especially with no more off-days until the All-Star Break.