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Washington Nationals Series Preview: Road trip ends against the Miami Marlins

A road trip that started out poorly turned around at the weekend. Will the Nats keep it up against the Marlins...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When the Washington Nationals are able to put up a crooked number or two, they win games. It really has been as simple as that.

In 25 of their 46 games so far this season, the Nationals have scored two runs or less, but have won just two of those games. When they score four runs or less, they’re 4-33, the worst record in the league when scoring four runs or less.

The hit-and-miss offense though made a strong impression this past weekend against the Cincinnati Reds — it should be said that the Reds have the worst ERA in the majors, so a lot of offenses will appear to have strong series against them this season.

Despite dropping the first game in Great American Ball Park, the Nats stormed back to take the final three games to pick up their second series win in three series.

Next, the Nationals head back down to Florida to take on the Miami Marlins, who have hit a bit of a rut since they last faced Washington, going just 5-10 since that series.

Here’s what to expect from loanDepot park ahead of the three-game set...

The schedule

  • Game One: Tuesday, June 6th, 6:40 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Wednesday, June 7th, 6:40 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Thursday, June 8th, 6:40 pm EDT. TV: MASN and MLB Network (out-of-market only), Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Joan Adon (1-9, 5.98 ERA) vs Edward Cabrera (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
  • Game Two: Josiah Gray (6-4, 4.71 ERA) vs Sandy Alcantara (6-2, 1.81 ERA)
  • Game Three: TBD (0-0, -.— ERA) vs Trevor Rogers (2-5, 5.80 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Lane Thomas: There’s just something about Thomas and facing NL Central opposition. He’s done plenty of it lately and started to heat up at the plate, showing the form he finished 2021 with.

Since the start of the series against the Milwaukee Brewers, Thomas has slashed a strong .271/.333/.688 with five home runs, taking his season total to six, three doubles, a triple, and 10 RBIs. He’s also managed to bump himself up to the two-spot in the lineup recently.

Manager Dave Martinez is liking what he’s seeing from one of the more fascinating trade acquisitions last season, and he might finally be turning the corner after a poor start to 2022.

Sandy Alcantara: It seems like every time the Nationals play the Marlins, they always have a starting pitcher who’s in the middle of an exceptional stretch. Previously this season, it’s been Pablo López, this time, it’s Sandy Alcantara.

In his last five starts, the towering right-hander has an extremely nice 0.69 ERA, allowing just three runs across 39 innings, striking out 40, and walking just eight in that stretch. That includes an impressive seven-inning effort against the Nats the last time these two teams met where he gave up just one run on three hits and a walk.

Alcantara has firmly placed himself in the NL Cy Young race with his latest stretch lowering his ERA to just 1.81 on the season, second in the senior circuit behind Joe Musgrove. He’s due to start the second game of this series, and another strong start could be on the cards.

Who’s not?

Josiah Gray: One of the biggest storylines for the Nationals this year was how Gray would adapt in his second season with the team, and after starting out well, the right-hander had a bit of a stumble in his form in the middle of May.

In his last five starts, Gray is sporting an underwhelming 6.23 ERA and 7.14 FIP, allowing 18 earned runs in 26 innings while striking out 29 and walking 12. But what’s really gotten to him is the long ball, with nine home runs allowed in that five-start stretch.

Things have been a bit better lately, allowing just one run a piece on his last two starts, but the walks have still been piling up, so he’ll need to keep those down if he’s going to assert himself as a key part of the future in the Nats’ rotation again this month.

Jazz Chisholm, Jr.: Well, in the last series between these two teams, we showed Chisholm some love for how well he was doing at the plate. Unfortunately, since then, he’s fallen back down to earth.

Chisholm has collected just three hits in 37 at-bats since that series with just one extra-base hit, giving him a disappointing .081/.191/.162 slash line in that time. The young infielder certainly has the talent and growing track record to turn it around, so maybe all he needs is the Nationals’ struggling pitching staff to reignite his season a bit.

From the opposing dugout

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

One more thing to watch

Could we finally be getting the long-awaited Stephen Strasburg season debut in this series?

Nothing has been officially confirmed by the team yet, but if you read between the lines of what Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez was saying during the team’s series in Cincinnati, then it looks like the right-hander will make his return to the big leagues this week.

After a rehab start with the Rochester Red Wings on Friday, Strasburg joined up with the team in Cincinnati to go through his usual between starts process with the big league club.

“He’s had a routine that he does in between starts, so he’s just doing his routine,” Martinez explained on Sunday. “He’s gonna throw a bullpen here in the next day, and we’ll see where he’s at and then we’ll have a conversation after the bullpen.

“So far, everything looks good. So I don’t want to make any decisions yet until he throws his bullpen and we go from there.”

Following the game on Sunday, the Nationals announced that Joan Adon would pitch on Tuesday and Josiah Gray would pitch on Wednesday in Miami, leaving Thursday’s game as a TBD.

That’s where the Nationals will determine the next step for Strasburg in his rehab.

“He’s going to Miami with us,” Martinez answered. “He’s staying with us and regardless of what we do next, he’ll travel with the team.”

It seems likely at this point that barring a setback in his bullpen and between-starts routine that Strasburg will return to the Nationals’ rotation in this series. It will at least be a sight for sore eyes for Nats fans who haven’t a whole lot to look forward to watching this team so far.

Late update to the series preview, looks like Strasburg will indeed start Thursday

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: One of the most notable players to play for both the Nationals and Reds was slugger Adam Dunn, spending eight and half years in Cincinnati before two seasons in the nation’s capital. Which team did Big Donkey have a higher OPS with, the Nats or Reds?

Answer: The Nationals, with a .910 OPS over a .896 OPS with the Reds

Here’s our trivia question for this series with the Marlins, which actually has absolutely nothing to do with the Marlins seeing as the Nationals have faced them a few times this year.

On this day in 2018, the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. A few days later, they made an appearance with the cup at a Nationals game, drinking their weight in beer in a suite down the third-base line. But who did the Nationals beat 7-5 in that game?