At the end of the 2007 season, the Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals were the two worst teams in the NL East. The Marlins have had much more success this year, thanks in part to the Nationals’ continued struggles.
The Marlins look to continue their dominance of the Nationals as the division rivals open a three-game series Monday night at Dolphin Stadium.
Washington finished the 2007 season 73-89, 16 games behind division champion Philadelphia. Among NL East teams, only Florida had a worse record at 71-91.
Despite trading All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera and ace left-hander Dontrelle Willis to Detroit in the offseason, the Marlins (42-39) have returned to contention this season. They’re in second place, chasing the Phillies.
The Marlins’ success has been due in part to their taking advantage of early season matchups with the Nationals (33-50), who are in last place in the division. Florida has outscored Washington 63-33 in winning eight of the first nine meetings, including all six games at the new Nationals Park.
The Nationals could have a better chance of ending their skid against the Marlins if Florida second baseman Dan Uggla is held out of the lineup for a second consecutive day Monday. Uggla, batting .382 (13-for-34) with four homers and 12 RBIs against Washington, missed Sunday’s 4-3 win over Arizona because of a sprained left ankle. He said he should be able to play in a few days.
Even without Uggla, the Marlins rallied with two runs in the ninth inning to beat the Diamondbacks on Sunday.
“We just kept battling and battling. That’s the strength of this ballclub - you hang around and always believe that something good can happen,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
“Hopefully, games like this will get us going and give us some momentum. This is the type of win that can get us rolling.”
The Nationals got a comeback victory of their own Sunday, getting a two-run homer from Ronnie Belliard in the bottom of the 12th inning to beat Baltimore 3-2. Of Washington’s 18 home wins, eight have come in the final at-bat.
“I want to win some games that (we) just lay back and win, but with this team, this is the way we have to win,” Belliard said.
The Nationals hope to build on that dramatic victory with Tim Redding (6-3, 4.05 ERA) starting Monday. Though Redding hasn’t gotten a decision in his last seven outings, the Nationals have won the last nine games started by the right-hander and are 14-3 with him on the mound.
Redding held the Los Angeles Angels to two runs in six innings of the Nationals’ 5-4 victory Wednesday. He’s 4-2 with a 3.40 ERA in eight career starts against the Marlins, but 1-2 with a 5.87 ERA in three starts this season.
Hanley Ramirez has three hits - a home run and two doubles - and three walks in nine career plate appearances against Redding.
Florida will counter with rookie right-hander Ryan Tucker (2-2, 6.75), who gave up a season-high seven runs in a 15-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday. Tucker will be making his first career start against Washington.