Opposite dugout: Marlins need a strong finish for chance at postseason

Manager: Don Mattingly (2nd season)
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Record: 67-69

Last 10 games: 4-6

Who to watch: RF Giancarlo Stanton (.285 average with 52 HR, 111 RBIs); LF Marcell Ozuna (.307 average with 32 HR, 107 RBIs); CF Christian Yelich (.288 average with 70 RBIs; 145 hits); LHP Adam Conley (6-6, 5.02 ERA); RHP AJ Ramos (3.63 ERA, 20 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: 6-10

Pitching probables:

Sep. 4: TBA vs. LHP Adam Conley; 7:10 p.m., MASN
Sep. 5: RHP Stephen Strasburg vs. RHP Odrisamer Despaigne; 7:10 p.m., MASN2
Sep. 6: LHP Gio Gonzalez vs. RHP Dillon Peters; 7:10 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Marlins:

It’s tough to say whether this three-game series between the Nationals and Marlins is “big.” The Marlins are five games back of the National League’s second wild card, but recently halted a five-game losing streak and are still trying to stay above the .500 mark. The Nationals, meanwhile, are 13 wins away from capturing their third division title in four years, but that race has seemingly been over since about late April. If anything, this series is important for the Marlins to simply keep pace in a crowded race for the postseason. And it comes in the midst of a 14-game run against division foes.

Offensively, is there a better collection of outfielders than the trio in Miami? Sure, Giancarlo Stanton gets most of the attention, and deservedly so. Stanton is on pace to be the league’s first 60-homer player since Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds in 2001. Stanton has 52 home runs on the year to go with 111 RBIs and 28 doubles. Fans love to see a good home run slugger, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares in the race for National League Most Valuable Player. But it’s the other two outfielders who really solidify the Marlins’ claim for the top unit in baseball. Left fielder Marcell Ozuna has 32 home runs and 107 RBIs of his own, as well as a team-leading .307 average. Meanwhile, center fielder Christian Yelich leads the club with 31 doubles and is third on the team with 147 hits. All three guys are well under 30 years old, along with second baseman Dee Gordon and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Adam Conley starts tonight’s series opener. Fans of déjà vu are in for a treat as Conley pitched against the Nationals just five days ago. In that game, Conley fared well (just two earned runs allowed in six innings). But Stephen Strasburg couldn’t be stopped, as the right-hander tossed a complete-game shutout and added a home run for good measure. Conley will probably be relieved he’s not up against Strasburg again and look to capture his first win against the Nationals this season. Everyone’s favorite Scrabble submission, Odrisamer Despaigne, starts Tuesday night for just the fourth time this season. Despaigne was moved into the starting rotation at the end of August and has amassed a respectable 3.60 ERA in two outings. He’s spent nearly all of this season and last out of the bullpen, but did rack up 34 starts during his first two years in the league with San Diego. Meanwhile, Dillon Peters (a far less interesting Scrabble submission) is fresh off his major league debut and will certainly aim to repeat the success he found against the Phillies. Peters tossed a gem on Sept. 1, shutting out Philadelphia over seven innings and tallying eight strikeouts.

After AJ Ramos was dealt to New York at the trade deadline, veteran Brad Ziegler assumed the closer’s role for the Marlins. He’s done a solid job in the position, too, notching nine saves since August 1. He’s accompanied by fellow relievers Dustin McGowan, Kyle Barraclough and Jarlin Garcia.

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