Nationals-Marlins Preview

The Associated Press

After battering the pitching of one division rival, the Washington Nationals have had little luck at the plate in their first two games against the Miami Marlins.

Given their history against Josh Johnson, it seems they could have another tough time in the series finale.

Johnson looks to remain unbeaten against the Nationals and help the Marlins cap the winningest month in franchise history by sweeping the NL East leaders Wednesday night in Miami.

Washington (29-20) totaled 22 runs and 29 hits while sweeping a weekend series in Atlanta, but has combined for four runs and 12 hits while going 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position the first two games of this series. The Nationals' lone run in Tuesday's 3-1 loss came on a suicide squeeze bunt by outfielder Corey Brown, who was making his first start after joining the team from Triple-A Syracuse on Monday.

Miami's Anibal Sanchez got the win Tuesday to remain unbeaten in 19 starts against Washington. Johnson (2-3, 4.87 ERA) has had a similar track record against the Nationals, going 7-0 with a 3.22 ERA in 14 career starts.

Johnson has regularly frustrated No. 3 hitter Ryan Zimmerman, who is batting .217 with no extra-base hits in 23 at-bats against him since 2009. Nationals cleanup man Adam LaRoche is 3 for 18 with eight strikeouts against the Marlins' two-time All-Star right-hander.

Johnson wasn't particularly sharp Friday against San Francisco, yielding three runs, nine hits and a walk in five innings, but Miami rallied for a 7-6 victory.

The Marlins (28-22) have won all five of Johnson's starts this month, and 20 games altogether in May to break the franchise record for victories in a month.

"I want 20 wins every month,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said.

The Marlins, who are off Thursday, have made up 4 1/2 games in the standings this month, and can pull within one-half game of the first-place Nationals if they can beat Chien-Ming Wang (1-0, 3.00), who is making his first start of 2012.

Wang, who is taking over for the ineffective Ross Detwiler, was originally supposed to be in Washington's starting rotation coming out of spring training but a strained left hamstring landed him on the disabled list.

Wang made his first appearance of the season Friday against Atlanta, coming out of the bullpen after Detwiler got into trouble in the fifth inning. He allowed one run and three hits over three innings and did not walk a batter.

"Here is a guy who has been in pennant fights, too, and knows what the pressure is all about," manager Davey Johnson told the Nationals' official website. "So it's a good opportunity for him and for us, to have him be in the role he is accustomed to, and that's to start."

Wang has won both of his career starts against the Marlins, posting a 4.61 ERA.

Hanley Ramirez hit his eighth homer - and first since May 14 - Tuesday for Miami, while Giancarlo Stanton went 2 for 3 with an RBI double to continue his terrific month. Stanton is batting .333 with 11 homers, 10 doubles and 28 RBIs in 28 May games.