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Washington Nationals Series Preview: Bottom of the division battle with Miami Marlins

Is it just me or have the past three weeks been the same week on repeat for the Nationals? Anyway, next they play the Marlins...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

It’s certainly not dull watching the new-look Washington Nationals since the trade deadline.

Constant exciting flashes of potential from young players, but in equal measure, there are hiccups with some underperforming players and occasionally a complete absence of fundamentals that continue to show why this team isn’t ready to win in the immediate future.

It happened again in the series with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Nationals took the first game with a strong start by Patrick Corbin and key hits by Lane Thomas and Riley Adams. Then they dropped the next two games behind some, at times, abysmal pitching, and some poor fundamentals despite equalling the Brewers' 20 hits over the two games on offense.

Next up for Washington is a midweek three-game series in Florida against the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins have still yet to pick up where they left off in the shortened 2020 season where they surprisingly made the expanded postseason and sit bottom of the National League East three games behind the Nationals in the standings with six weeks to play.

Here’s the low down from loanDepot park ahead of the three-game set...

The schedule

  • Game One: Tuesday, August 24th, 7:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Wednesday, August 25th, 7:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Thursday, August 26th, 7:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Pitching matchups

  • Game One: Erick Fedde (5-8, 5.14 ERA) vs Jesús Luzardo (4-6, 7.76 ERA)
  • Game Two: Josiah Gray (0-1, 3.90 ERA) vs Edward Cabrera (0-0, -.-- ERA)
  • Game Three: Patrick Corbin (7-12, 5.82 ERA) vs Elieser Hernandez (0-1, 4.15 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Lane Thomas: Before Nationals fans even heard what the return was for the veteran left-hander, Jon Lester, the trade already seemed like a win in simply getting him off the roster.

In reality, Mike Rizzo may have actually pulled a rabbit out of his hat getting Thomas in return.

The outfielder was caught in an outfield roster crunch and may have been DFA’d before too long had this trade not happened. Instead, the Nats were able to grab the former #9 prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals’ system as the return for Lester and the early signs are promising.

In his first 20 plate appearances with the Nationals, Thomas is slashing .600/.700/.867 with a pair of doubles, a triple, and five walks while striking out just once. He also has an exceptional average exit velocity of 96.1mph in that small sample.

Obviously, Thomas won’t hit anything near that when all is said and done. Not even close. His performances definitely have piqued several peoples’ interest though and may have earned him more playing time in the immediate future.

Lewis Brinson: Is the former top prospect and centerpiece of the Christian Yelich trade in 2018 finally figuring it out at the major league level?

Talent has never been in question for Brinson, he absolutely torched the minor leagues on his way to the top, but he seemingly made a home below the Mendoza Line when he got there.

Since August 2nd, Brinson is slashing .292/.346/.542 with four home runs, 17 RBIs, and a wRC+ of 140 in 20 games, raising his line on the season to a solid .253/.295/.452 and his wRC+ to 104. Now, for the first time in his career, he’s a positive fWAR player at 0.7 in 58 games.

The uptick in performance has seen Brinson rise in the order, hitting fourth or fifth now. If he can continue to emerge offensively, the Marlins might finally have their center fielder of the future.

Who’s not?

Gabe Klobosits: The very first call-up the Nationals made after the trade deadline sell-off, Klobosits has had the chance to stake a claim as a bullpen arm of the future lately. Unfortunately, the opportunity is passing him by right now.

Despite posting a near-perfect 0.56 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 32 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season, the right-hander has looked a little out of his depth in the majors.

In 11.1 big league innings, Klobosits has a 5.56 ERA, surrendering runs in six of his 11 appearances. The most concerning statistic, however, is the complete lack of punchouts with only five in those 11.1 innings, giving him a strikeout rate of just 9.6% since his call-up.

Klobosits also was the player that manager Dave Martinez suggested should have been covering home on the bizarre RBI pop-out in Saturday’s game against the Brewers.

The big right-hander clearly has a lot to work on in the big leagues, but should at least be given more patience to see if he can figure things out with the team out of contention

Jesús Luzardo: Former Nationals’ farmhand Luzardo has certainly had a rollercoaster of a professional baseball career to this point. He’s had some highs in his career but is struggling through some pretty low lows right now.

Those lows are part of the reason he ended up in Miami via the Starling Marte trade after posting a 6.87 ERA in 13 appearances with the Oakland Athletics earlier this season.

Things have only gotten worse since the trade though. The left-hander has posted an ugly 9.68 ERA in four starts with the Marlins, striking out 17, walking 16, and giving up three home runs in just 17.2 innings.

Like the Nats, the Marlins are in a lost season and can have patience with Luzardo, who clearly has the potential to be a force in a major league rotation. There could be more lumps this week though when he’s scheduled to take the mound in the series opener.

From the opposing dugout

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

One more thing to watch

After a stellar pitching performance from Corbin in the first game against the Brewers over the weekend, the Nats’ pitching fell apart a little in the next two games, allowing 16 runs on 20 hits.

In the second of those losses though, the Nationals walked 11 batters, the joint-second-most by the team since they moved to D.C. in 2005, just behind a win against the Atlanta Braves last season when they walked 12 batters.

The team’s skipper is generally fairly laissez-faire about things when they don’t go their way on the field. If a ball bounces the wrong way, the opposing team’s best hitter cranks a go-ahead home run, they get dominated by a pitcher on their game, Dave Martinez tips his cap.

However, there are a few things that do get under Martinez’s skin though. His team gifting the other team free runners, free bases, and free outs are among his pet peeves.

To him, that shows that his players aren’t doing everything they can to control what they can control and he predictably was irked by the number of walks his pitchers gave up on Sunday.

“It’s been not just today, it’s been a few days now,” Martinez explained on Sunday. “They were doing really well, they were attacking hitters, and they need to get back to that.

“I’m starting to see a lot more breaking pitches, falling behind, and these guys throw good fastballs, I want them to use their fastballs. Don’t go away from your fastball, just attack the zone.

“They’re hitters, they’re going to swing, but work ahead, just work ahead and stop giving them free passes.”

Surprisingly, after trading away their second-best hitter at the deadline in Trea Turner, the Nats have generally done pretty well on offense since then. It’s their pitching letting them down.

Martinez will be expecting them to step up against one of the worst lineups in baseball when they face the Marlins this week, especially in trying to limit the free passes unlike the series finale against Brewers...