Marlins-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

The Washington Nationals are off to their best start in 31 years, thanks in large part to stunning success from their rotation.

Giving the ball to Stephen Strasburg appears to be a good way to keep that prosperity going.

Strasburg looks to win his third straight start as the Nationals try for another victory against the visiting Miami Marlins on Saturday.

Washington (11-4) hasn't been this good through the first 15 games of a season since going 12-3 as the Montreal Expos in 1981.

The Nationals' early success has been sparked by the rotation's 1.94 ERA, the lowest in baseball and best by the franchise at this point in a season since 2003.

"We know we're pretty good. We just have to go prove it," said manager Davey Johnson, whose team is tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas for the most wins in the majors.

The Nationals proved it again Friday, winning 2-0 as Ross Detwiler held the Marlins (7-7) to three hits while striking out seven in six innings.

Detwiler is emerging as a key contributor to a rotation that boasts the 21-year-old Strasburg (2-0, 1.42) as its ace along with Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Jordan Zimmermann.

Strasburg looks to follow Detwiler's impressive outing with one of his own as he tries to win three starts in a row for the second time in his career.

The right-hander was dominant through five scoreless innings Monday before allowing two runs in the sixth and exiting a 6-3 win over Houston.

"(Johnson) knows I want to go out there and stay out there as long as I possibly can," said Strasburg, who threw 93 pitches. "You want to go seven, eight, nine innings. I got into a couple of jams that put the pitch count up."

Strasburg is 2-1 with a 2.82 ERA in four starts against Miami, striking out 24 in 22 1-3 innings.

The Nationals have won four of five against their NL East rivals.

Rick Ankiel gave Washington the upper hand in the opener of this three-game series Friday, collecting his first homer and a double among his three hits. The center fielder is batting .318 in seven games after opening the season on the disabled list with a strained left quad.

The Nationals are the surprising early leaders in the division, a position Miami is expected to contend for. For now, the Marlins may just be happy with getting back above .500 after their four-game winning streak came to an end Friday.

Shortstop Jose Reyes went 0 for 3 with a walk and is hitting .147 over the past nine games. He has never faced Strasburg.

Hanley Ramirez has, going 3 for 5 with two doubles. The third baseman wasn't as effective against the Nationals on Friday, going 0 for 4 after hitting .550 (11 for 20) with three homers and nine RBIs in the previous five contests.

Anibal Sanchez (1-0, 2.92) takes the mound looking to continue his dominance of the Nationals. The right-hander is 7-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 17 starts against them, winning his last three in the nation's capital while yielding one earned run and striking out 20 in 22 1-3 innings.

Sanchez allowed three runs and struck out seven in six innings of a 5-4 win in 11 over the Astros on Sunday.

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