The division rivals square off Friday night in the nation’s capital for the first time since their wild brawl last week, while Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan(notes) is expected to begin serving his suspension for instigating the fracas.
Florida (70-69) pulled within seven games of Philadelphia with a 7-1 win in the opener of a day-night doubleheader Monday, but dropped the final three games of the series and fell 10 behind the NL East-leading Phillies after Wednesday’s 10-6 loss.
There will still be plenty to play for against the Nationals (60-80), whose leadoff hitter sparked a bench-clearing melee last Wednesday in South Florida.
Morgan was hit by a pitch from Florida’s Chris Volstad(notes), one night after he left catcher Brett Hayes(notes) with a separated shoulder following a jarring collision at home plate. He subsequently stole second and third base with his team trailing 15-4, prompting Volstad to throw behind him in his next at-bat.
Morgan charged the mound, setting off a brawl that resulted in nine suspensions. His eight-game ban was the longest, and while he’s continued to play during his appeal, a ruling is expected Friday that will result in Morgan missing the three-game set.
Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez doesn’t expect similar fireworks in this series.
“I’m sure (Nationals manager Jim) Riggleman tells his players to move on and ‘Let’s play baseball,’” Rodriguez told Major League Baseball’s official website. “We’re going to have the same attitude. Let’s turn the page, play baseball and let’s just play the game. I don’t expect anything out of the norm this series. Everybody is going to take the field.”
Taking the mound for Washington is John Lannan(notes) (7-6, 4.73 ERA), among the NL’s better pitchers over the past month. The left-hander has won five of six starts while posting a 2.84 ERA, a vast improvement from a first half that culminated with him being sent to Double-A for six weeks to work on his mechanics.
He struck out seven and held Pittsburgh to one run over seven innings Saturday in a 9-2 win.
“Now he’s the John Lannan everybody knows,” catcher Ivan Rodriguez(notes) said. “He’s the guy who pounds the strike zone, keeps the ball down and moves the ball around. He’s a good pitcher, and he’s going to be fine.”
Though Lannan is 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA in two career home starts versus Florida, one of his worst outings this year was his only one against the Marlins. He gave up six runs in five innings of a 9-3 loss May 2 and served up a homer to Hanley Ramirez(notes), who is 6 for 13 against Lannan and should return Friday after sitting out Wednesday with back discomfort.
Washington scored 30 runs during a three-game winning streak before being held to three in losing its last two to the Mets.
“We played good, hard baseball and played just like we did the first game, when we scored 13 runs, but the results were different,” Riggleman said after Wednesday’s 3-2 defeat.
They’ll hope for better luck against Alex Sanabia(notes) (3-2, 4.50), filling in for injured ace Josh Johnson(notes). The rookie right-hander, tagged for nine runs in his last 10 2-3 innings, was suspended five games for his role in the brawl and plans to drop his appeal after this start.
Sanabia is 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA in two outings against the Nationals, who have lost 10 of 15 in the series.