Nationals-Marlins Preview

The Associated Press

While the Washington Nationals were hoping to make a run in the NL wild-card race this weekend, they appear to have caught the league-worst Miami Marlins at the wrong time.

The Marlins try to stay hot Saturday night against the visiting Nationals, who need a lot to go their way if they want to climb back into contention.

Miami (53-86) had dropped six straight and 10 of 11 before winning four of five. The Marlins have hit .315 and averaged 6.2 runs during that stretch, and they continued their surge with a 7-0 victory in Friday's opener.

Chris Coghlan had three of the team's 13 hits and Giancarlo Stanton went 2 for 4 with a home run and three RBIs. Logan Morrison added a two-run shot, his second in as many games.

The Nationals (71-69) also had their hands full against Jose Fernandez, who combined with Chad Qualls and Brad Hand on a two-hitter. Washington, which failed to get a runner into scoring position for just the second time all season, dropped eight games behind Cincinnati for the second wild-card spot.

"(Jose) brings so much excitement to the ballpark and this team and you can just tell the guys really feed off of that and I think you saw that in the offense," said manager Mike Redmond, whose team improved to 4-9 against Washington. "It was fun to watch."

Instead of giving the ball to Ross Ohlendorf, the Nationals will try to bounce back behind Tanner Roark (4-0, 1.19 ERA). The 26-year-old rookie, set to make his first big league start, held opponents to a .182 average over nine relief appearances spanning 22 2-3 innings.

"This is giving Tanner Roark an opportunity to start up here in the big leagues and see how he fits," manager Davey Johnson told MLB's official website. "He was good out of the 'pen, but he is a young starter. (Minor league pitching coordinator) Spin Williams really likes him as a big league starter. So we figured we take a look at that."

The right-hander has put together three scoreless innings in two appearances versus Miami.

The Marlins counter with Nathan Eovaldi (3-5, 3.40). The right-hander had received a combined six runs of support during an eight-start winless stretch before throwing a season-high eight innings in Sunday's 7-0 victory at Atlanta.

"Give Nathan a lot of credit," Redmond said of Eovaldi, who snapped a five-game losing streak. "He went out there and pounded the strike zone and gave us a chance."

While Eovaldi was tagged for a career-worst 11 runs in three-plus innings in a 14-10 loss to San Francisco on Aug. 16, he has compiled a 2.25 ERA in his other five home outings.

Eovaldi allowed two runs in six innings in a 2-1 loss at Washington on Aug. 27, dropping to 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts in the series. Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche are a combined 6 for 12 in their matchups, but Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth are both 0 for 5.

It's unclear if Eovaldi will have to face Denard Span, who was a late scratch Friday due to a tight groin. The center fielder is batting .406 with 11 runs during a 17-game hitting streak.

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