Two teams looking to avoid finishing in the NL East cellar square off in a series for the final time this season as the Washington Nationals visit the Florida Marlins on Monday night to start a three-game set.
Washington has won nine of 15 from Florida this season, but is just 2-4 at Dolphin Stadium. The Nationals (64-79) begin play in fourth place in the East, three games ahead of the last-place Marlins (61-82).
The Nationals snapped an eight-game road losing streak with a 7-4 victory over Atlanta on Sunday. Ryan Church hit a three-run homer, and D’Angelo Jimenez added three hits and three RBIs for Washington, which had been outscored 56-30 on the road since winning on Aug. 23 at Houston.
“I was able to stay on it,” Church said of his homer - which came after he struck out on breaking balls in his first two at-bats. “In that situation, you want to elevate the ball. … It took nine pitches to finally get it. I didn’t in my first two at-bats.”
The Nationals are 28-44 on the road, and haven’t won two straight away from RFK Stadium since beating the Astros on Aug. 20-21.
Washington’s Shawn Hill (3-3, 2.98 ERA) gets the start in the opener, and will try again to post his first win since coming off the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 14.
In his first five starts after missing more than three months with a strained left shoulder, the right-hander has a solid 3.41 ERA but no decisions. Hill faced Florida on Tuesday, and gave up three runs and a season-high 11 hits in 6 1-3 innings before the Nationals rallied with two runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 win.
Hill has made all four of his career starts against the Marlins this season, going 1-1 with a 2.82 ERA.
The Marlins hit three homers and scored five runs in the sixth inning on Sunday, but couldn’t overcome an early deficit and fell 8-5 to Philadelphia. Hanley Ramirez and Mike Jacobs sandwiched two-run homers around a solo shot by Jeremy Hermida - all off 44-year-old Jamie Moyer.
The defeat officially eliminated Florida from the NL East race.
The Marlins now return home after going 1-5 on a road trip against the Nationals and Phillies.
“There still is a lot of meaningful baseball to be played, and I don’t want anybody leaving our series going, ‘These guys rolled over for us,’” Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Marlins’ official Web site. “That ain’t going to happen with this club.”
Like Washington’s Hill, Scott Olsen (9-12, 5.76) will be looking to end a lengthy winless drought for Florida. The left-hander is 0-3 with a 7.43 ERA in five starts since beating Houston on Aug. 5.
Olsen hasn’t pitched since facing Philadelphia on Sept. 2, when he allowed five runs and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings. He didn’t get a decision in the Marlins’ 7-6 win. Olsen is 2-1 with a 5.74 ERA in four starts against the Nationals this year.