The Florida Marlins are rolling, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.
The Marlins will be trying to extend their season-high five-game winning streak on Saturday when they continue a three-game series with Washington at Nationals Park.
Florida (21-14) beat Washington (15-21) 7-3 in Friday’s series opener for its longest winning streak since a nine-game run Aug. 20-29, 2006. The Marlins, who are in first place in the NL East and seven games above .500 for the first time since Sept. 2005, have outscored their opponents 33-10 during the win streak.
Florida’s 21 victories through 35 games are the most in franchise history.
“It’s starting to rub off on everybody now,” said starter Ricky Nolasco, who threw six strong innings for the win on Friday. “I know what that feeling’s like, just like what we had in ’06. As long as we can just keep feeding off each other, we can go out there and pitch a different game.”
Left fielder Luis Gonzalez, who had a three-run double Friday, has been a big part of Florida’s current run, hitting .556 (10-for-18) with four RBIs over the last five games. The double was the 574th of his career, tying him with Charlie Gehringer for 18th all-time .
“I know what my role is, when Hammer (Josh Willingham) gets healthy again I’ll go back to being a bench player,” said the 40-year-old Gonzalez, acquired as a free agent in the offseason. “For me, the most important thing is hopefully I can show these guys that I can still play if I have to.”
The Nationals, meanwhile, lost for the third time in four games. They have been outscored 47-29 while dropping six of seven against the Marlins this season.
The Nationals placed catchers Paul Lo Duca (broken right hand) and Johnny Estrada (right elbow injury) on the 15-day disabled list Friday. Washington recalled catcher Jesus Flores from Triple-A Columbus, who did not start Friday, but figures to get the bulk of the work behind the plate.
Flores will start on Saturday and catch Mike O’Connor (1-0, 6.35 ERA), who is making his first start of the season in place of Matt Chico. Chico was demoted to the bullpen after going 0-5 with a 6.87 ERA in seven starts. He made his first career relief appearance Friday and threw two scoreless innings.
O’Connor went 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Columbus before he was called up on April 24. The left-hander was 3-8 with a 4.81 ERA in 20 starts for the Nationals in 2006. He spent part of last season recovering from elbow surgery, and the rest of it in the minors.
“It’s not a tryout, one-game type of thing,” manager Manny Acta told the Nationals’ official Web site. “We want to relieve Matt from some of the tension he’s having. And we want to give O’Connor a shot.”
O’Connor was roughed up in two starts against the Marlins in 2006, going 0-1 with a 14.21 ERA.
Florida counters with Andrew Miller (2-2, 7.96), who will be trying to build on his strongest outing of the season. The 22-year-old left-hander yielded two runs in a season-high six innings Sunday in a 10-3 win over San Diego, lowering his ERA from 9.12 to 7.96.
Miller is facing Washington for the third time this season. He was pounded for nine runs in 8 1-3 innings in the first two starts, but escaped without a decision.