The Washington Nationals are looking stronger than ever thanks to back-to-back demolitions of the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. The Nats have regained baseball's best record and can finish off a memorable homestand as the fading Miami Marlins arrive in D.C. for a three-game weekend series.
Armed with one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, the Nats' bats exploded in the past week against the Cards and Cubs. With the line-up looking as complete as it has all year, the Nationals hope to feast on a last-place Marlins team that has little to play for in the season's final month.
Washington Nationals vs. Miami Marlins
Friday, September 7, 7:05 p.m. EDT
Stephen Strasburg (15-6, 2.94) vs. Jacob Turner (1-3, 7.33)
Saturday, September 8, 1:05 p.m. EDT
Ross Detwiler (9-6, 3.15) vs. Mark Buehrle (12-12, 3.73)
Sunday, September 9, 1:35 p.m. EDT
Edwin Jackson (9-9, 3.63) vs. Ricky Nolasco (11-12, 4.64)
Season Series: This is the final meeting of the year between the division foes. The Nats are a modest 8-7 against the Marlins, but are 5-1 at Nationals Park.
The Nationals looked vulnerable during a five-game losing streak toward the end of August, but that feels like ancient history now. The Nats took 7-of-8 games so far on this homestand and while there were a number of good pitching performances, the story has been the offense. With the line-up finally near-complete and clicking on all cylinders, the Nats put up an eye-popping 62 runs in the past eight games. The pitching staff continues to lead the National League with a 3.26 ERA.
The Marlins have fallen far short of expectations this season and enter the series in last place in the NL East at 61-77. After looking like a contender through the first few months, it's been a steady slide to to the bottom ever since. Giancarlo Stanton leads the team in power (30 HRs) and average (.284), but Jose Reyes hasn't produced as expected and Hanley Ramirez was shipped off to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline. The pitching staff has been equally disappointing, without a single stand-out season by a Miami pitcher.
The upstart Nationals threaten to punish teams down the stretch with a newly-awakened offense to pair with its dominant pitching. The Nats still have plenty to play for with the Atlanta Braves hanging on in the standings, seven and a half games back, while Miami is playing out the string. The Nats could use a few wins against the last-place Marlins before heading back on the road next week.
Barring any surprises, Stephen Strasburg makes his final home start of the year in the series opener, adding significant drama to Friday's game. The Marlins then get to face the bottom of the Nats' rotation, but Detwiler and Jackson have had better seasons than the top of the Marlins' rotation. They'll go up against the Marlins' best pitcher in Mark Buehrle, and Ricky Nolasco who tossed a surprise shutout against the Nats on August 28.
KW Rosenfeld is a lifelong baseball fan who visited every major league ballpark in the summer of 1991. A longtime resident of Northern Virginia, he's still thankful that baseball has returned to D.C. Follow on Twitter @KWRosenfeld
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