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Washington Nationals Series Preview: Slumping Miami Marlins await down south

The Nationals and Marlins are both having wretched months, and face off against each other to kick off the week...

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

At least the Washington Nationals were able to end the Houston Astros’ 11-game win-streak during the weekend series between the two teams, I guess.

Once again though, it was a familiar feeling for the Nationals who lost their eighth series out of 11 so far this season. That dropped them to 12-24, good for last place in the division and the second-worst record in the majors ahead of only the Cincinnati Reds at 9-26.

We’re still getting used to looking down in the standings, rather than up, unfortunately.

Next up for the Nats is the Miami Marlins, who are in almost equally bad form this month.

The Marlins started off the month with a six-game losing run that dropped them from 12-8 and second place in the division to 12-14. They now sit at 15-19 and are fourth in the National League East after dropping nine of 12 in the month as a whole.

There has been some bad luck on their part, but their usually excellent pitching staff has merely been ok this month, tied for the 11th-most run allowed this month. That’s fine, but if they are to right the ship after a poor first half of May, they need their pitching to be elite again.

Here’s the lowdown from loanDepot park ahead of the three-game midweek series...

The schedule

  • Game One: Monday, May 16th, 6:40 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Tuesday, May 17th, 6:40 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Wednesday, May 18th, 6:40 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Aaron Sanchez (2-2, 7.58 ERA) vs Cody Poteet (0-0, 0.55 ERA)
  • Game Two: Joan Adon (1-6, 7.03 ERA) vs Sandy Alcantara (2-2, 2.74 ERA)
  • Game Three: Josiah Gray (4-3, 4.34 ERA) vs Pablo López (4-1, 1.05 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Riley Adams: Austin Voth was due to make an appearance in this section before he allowed a pair of runs in the series finale against the Astros, so here’s our alternate, Riley Adams.

Adams, the team’s backup catcher, has carved himself out a nice niche as Patrick Corbin’s personal catcher, which has kept him in the lineup regularly, as well as the usual backup catcher role, playing at least once a series to keep Keibert Ruiz fresh when he plays.

After a slow start, Adams has hit better in his limited time in May, going 4-for-12 with a home run against the New York Mets last week, for a nice .333/.385/.583 slash line in that time. With three night contests in this series, Adams could potentially sit for all three games, but with the way he’s hit this month, he could sneak in an appearance behind the dish.

Jazz Chisholm Jr.: Maybe it’s because he’s on the Marlins, but it really does feel like Chisholm is one of the most underrated players in the league right now for what he brings offensively and defensively.

At the plate, Chisholm is slashing .288/.327/.577 on the season with six home runs, six steals, 24 RBIs, and a 153 wRC+ which ranks in the top 25 in the league among qualifiers. In the field, he’s second among second basemen in Defensive Runs Saved behind only Tommy Edman.

Chisholm has provided the Marlins with a spark atop their order this season, and should continue to do so during this three-game set with the Nationals.

Who’s not?

Aaron Sanchez: It’s not been the start to Sanchez’s Nats tenure that he and the team had hoped for.

Called up as a sixth member of the rotation in mid-April, he kept his spot over Josh Rogers but has still yet to impress, sporting a 7.58 ERA in four starts, striking out just 10 and walking three in 19 innings of work.

If you believe in his 4.75 FIP, then the fact he’s limited the walks and long ball somewhat means there are better starts on the way, but even then, it’s still pretty underwhelming so far from the veteran.

Jesús Sánchez: Acquired in the Nick Anderson trade back in 2019, the Marlins have long been hoping that Sánchez will fulfill his potential in the majors. So far, there have been high highs, but also low lows, and the right fielder is struggling at the plate right now.

In his last 13 games, Sánchez is slashing just .089/.146/.111 in 48 plate appearances with one double, but no runs scored or RBIs, to go with a whopping 15 strikeouts and only three walks.

Sánchez will get every chance to turn things around at the plate and may well catch fire again in the near future, but he’ll need to iron out the inconsistencies in his game soon.

From the opposing dugout

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

One more thing to watch

With the Nationals doing a lot of losing this season, it presents a slightly different challenge for their manager Dave Martinez. Well, aside from the actual losing a lot of games thing.

With the Nationals rarely leading late in games, Martinez needs to get creative in finding a way to keep getting his high-leverage arms enough innings out of the bullpen so that they stay fresh and don’t get rusty between appearances.

During Saturday’s game against the Astros, the team’s closer Tanner Rainey entered in the eighth inning of a 13-6 game, hardly a save situation. Then Kyle Finnegan, arguably Martinez’s top set-up man, pitched with the Nationals down 7-0 in the series finale on Sunday.

It’s not just a case of throwing them out there on a whim, the skipper is trying to still get them the highest-leverage opportunities possible, even in games that are somewhat a blowout.

“For me, I try to get them not to face the middle of the lineup,” Martinez explained. “Because that’s probably where if we need them most it’s probably the bulk of their best hitters between [Rainey] and Finnegan.

“[Saturday] was just a matter of getting him out there and not letting him face what we believe he might have to face if the game is 3-1 today and we’ve got the lead.

“So that’s a bit of a challenge to get him ... but we also don’t want to put him out there too early and then all of a sudden something happens where we do really need him, so we thought yesterday was a perfect opportunity to get him in the eighth inning.”

The Nationals will obviously be hoping that they can get their closer into more save situations because that means they’re leading late in games, but until then, expect to see the likes of Rainey and Finnegan in more unfamiliar situations coming out of the bullpen.

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: Can you name the nine Nationals players who recorded at least one RBI during the team’s World Series victory over the Houston Astros in 2019?

Answer: Anthony Rendon (8), Juan Soto (7), Adam Eaton (6), Asdrúbal Cabrera (3), Howie Kendrick (3), Ryan Zimmerman (2), Victor Robles (1), Kurt Suzuki (1), Michael A. Taylor (1)

With the Nationals making their first trip to loanDepot park this season, our trivia question is centered on one of the franchise’s more memorable games at the ballpark...

Back on July 31st, 2017, Gio Gonzalez pitched a near-no-hitter down in Miami against the Marlins, tossing eight hitless innings before his effort was broken up in the ninth inning. Who was it that broke up the no-no for the Marlins that day?