Marlins-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals hope their opening day performance was merely a sign of what's to come in a potentially special season.

Gio Gonzalez looks to help Washington to a repeat result Wednesday night as it faces a visiting Miami Marlins team hoping to generate more offense after a lackluster opener.

Harper and Stephen Strasburg got the Nationals off to a great start in an expectation-heavy season Monday. Harper hit a pair of home runs and Strasburg pitched seven innings in a 2-0 win over Miami.

''You just shake your head in amazement. You don't see that too often from anybody, period," center fielder Denard Span said of Harper. "But to see him as a 20-year-old? He's just writing a book right now. And he does it so calm, too.''

Harper tried to take his stellar performance in stride.

''Pretty special moment,'' said Harper, the NL rookie of the year in 2012. ''If I was 0 for 4, or 4 for 4, it wouldn't have mattered to me. Just going out there having some fun on opening day for the first time.''

While those two players played a big part in the team's rise last year, Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA) also had a major role after being acquired from Oakland prior to last season. He finished third in the NL Cy Young voting after leading the major leagues in wins and posting a career-best ERA.

Gonzalez allowed one hit and struck out seven in four innings of his final spring training start Thursday.

"Obviously, the last game, you don't want to slack," Gonzalez told the team's official website about his final tuneup.

It remains to be seen whether a tumultuous offseason will affect his performance in 2013. Gonzalez's name was reportedly listed in the notebook of the founder of a now-closed Miami clinic that has supplied players with performance-enhancing drugs. Gonzalez has repeatedly denied any connection to the clinic and says he has never taken PEDs.

Though he's struck out at least nine in each of his three career starts versus Miami, Gonzalez lost both of his outings against the Marlins last year.

Miami will try again to get on track offensively Wednesday after mustering three hits in the opener. Leadoff hitter Juan Pierre began his second stint with the Marlins with a single before the next 19 batters were retired.

Kevin Slowey will make his first start since Sept. 26, 2011, as he seeks his first victory since Oct. 2, 2010. The right-hander went 0-8 with a 6.67 ERA in 14 appearances - eight starts - with Minnesota in 2011 before a series of injuries had him pitching exclusively in the minors last year.

The catcher for Slowey's major league debut with the Twins in 2007 was Miami first-year manager Mike Redmond.

"The biggest thing for us, from a leadership standpoint, is Red," Slowey told the team's official website. "He understands one game is only worth one game. There will be days where we come out and play great, and there will be days we come out and we fall flat. His ability to stay even keel is going to help us in our progression."

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