The Nationals (6-11) opened the season with two straight losses to Florida, on their way to a 1-8 start. Since then, the Nationals have won five of their last eight, but are in fourth place in the NL East, 5 1/2 games behind Atlanta.
Washington’s latest win was a 6-5 triumph in 14 innings in the series opener on Friday. Chris Snelling hit a game-winning RBI single off first baseman Mike Jacobs’ glove that scored Ryan Church from second base. Second baseman Jason Wood chased down the ricochet and his throw home was on time, but catcher Matt Treanor couldn’t hold on to the ball.
“I had no clue, I didn’t know the second baseman had it,” Church said. “I thought it bounced off Jacobs and went into the outfield. (Third base coach) Tom Tolman was waving me so I was gone.”
Washington’s Felipe Lopez went 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to six games. He is batting .393 (11-for-28) in that stretch.
Ryan Zimmerman, who led Washington with 110 RBIs last year, went 2-for-7 Friday, and is batting just .216 with three RBIs this season. Zimmerman hopes to find his stroke like he did last season, when he batted .219 through 19 games before a surge led him to a .287 season average and a second-place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year race.
The winner of that award—Florida’s Hanley Ramirez—went 2-for-4 with three walks Friday, improving his season average to .373. Ramirez is hitting just .261 (6-for-23) at home, but has a career average of .341 (29-for-85) with 25 runs in 22 games against the Nationals.
While Washington is coming around after a slow start, Ramirez and the Marlins (6-10) are faltering after a quick one. Florida opened the season 5-2, but has since lost eight of its last nine games, including six straight.
“I don’t want to say that we can’t get a break because we had some opportunities,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said after his team stranded 13 runners while going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position Friday.
Gonzalez hopes the return of All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera can help Florida snap the skid. Cabrera was held out of the lineup Friday with a sore right oblique. He hopes to play when Florida sends Anibal Sanchez to the mound.
Sanchez (1-0, 4.32 ERA) allowed only one run and four hits in his last start, but walked six batters as the Marlins lost to Houston 4-3 on Monday. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 3.23 ERA in five career starts against the Nationals.
Starting for Washington, Matt Chico (1-1, 5.27) will be hoping for a better performance than his major-league debut against the Marlins on April 4. In four innings, Chico gave up six runs and eight hits - including three home runs - but the Nationals scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win 7-6.
The left-hander has settled down since his first start, allowing five runs - only two earned - over his last two starts, spanning 9 2-3 innings. He gave up one run and four hits in five innings to beat Atlanta 5-1 on Monday.
The Marlins went 11-7 against Washington last year, with a 6-3 record at home.