The Marlins will look to continue their 2008 dominance of their division rivals when the teams open a three-game set in South Florida on Friday, facing off for the first time in more than two months.
After beating Washington 4-2 in the clubs’ last meeting on July 2, the Marlins (74-72) were in second place in the East, just 1 1/2 games behind Philadelphia.
Florida was 44-40 at that point, using a 10-2 record against the last-place Nationals (56-90) to help contend even with the smallest payroll in the majors. But with no games against Washington since then, the Marlins have gone 30-32 over that span and been unable to keep up with the surging New York Mets.
Despite trailing the first-place Mets by 8 1/2 games with 16 to play, the Marlins still sound upbeat after winning the final two games of a three-game set this week at the second-place Phillies.
“It’s fun coming in here in September knowing you still have a mathematical chance,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Florida still has three more games against both the Phillies and Mets, but any chance of a miraculous comeback would probably have to start with a sweep of the Nationals.
“We’re not out of it yet,” pitcher Ricky Nolasco told the team’s official Web site. “There are still a lot of ballgames. I don’t think anybody is playing spoiler yet.”
The Marlins have outscored Washington 79-49 this season, sweeping both series at Nationals Park while taking two of three each time at Dolphin Stadium.
Scott Olsen (6-10, 4.41 ERA) has two of those wins, as the Marlins have won all three of his starts against the Nationals this season. But the left-hander has struggled lately, with Florida losing each of his last nine starts overall. Olsen is 0-6 with a 5.74 ERA over that span, with his last win coming July 19 against Philadelphia.
He gave up four runs in six innings of a 5-3 loss to St. Louis on Saturday - the fourth straight start in which he’s allowed at least four runs.
“I just try to go deep in the ballgame every time and keep my team in it,” Olsen said. “It hasn’t worked out for me this year, but you’ve got to keep going out there and keep doing it.”
He’ll face a resurgent Nationals offense that has scored at least seven runs in four consecutive games. Despite ranking near or at the bottom of baseball in offensive productivity for much of the season, the Nationals have 89 runs in their last 13 games, the most of any team in the majors over that span.
Cristian Guzman had three home runs and drove in seven runs in a two-game series against the Mets this week, but the Nationals still lost both games despite scoring 18 total runs, as they allowed 23.
Shairon Martis (0-1, 3.60) will try to stabilize the beleaguered staff in his second major league start. The 21-year-old right-hander gave up two runs and four hits in five innings in his debut against Atlanta last Thursday, but walked five in a 2-0 loss.