Manager: Don Mattingly (3rd season)
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: C J.T. Realmuto (316 with 6 HR, 16 RBIs), 2B Starlin Castro (.293 with 21 RBIs), 1B Justin Bour (9 HR, 23 RBIs), RHP Elieser Hernandez (0-1, 2.08 ERA), RHP Brad Ziegler (9 saves)
Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (6-13 in 2017)
May 25: RHP Max Scherzer (7-1) vs. RHP José Ureña (0-7), 7:10 p.m., MASN2
May 26: RHP Tanner Roark (2-4) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (1-2), 4:10 p.m., MASN2
May 27: RHP Stephen Strasburg (5-4) vs. RHP Elieser Hernandez (0-1), 1:10 p.m., MASN2
Inside the Marlins:
Wins have been few and far between for the Marlins, which is what you’d expect for a team under new ownership that has decided to tear down and rebuild. But the Fish come into their first series against the Nationals on a rare two-game winning streak. The Nationals are the last National League East team the Marlins have yet to play, a curious quirk in the schedule that bodes well for Washington later in the season, when they face the Fish 12 times in the second half. The three-game set against the Nats this weekend marks the only home series for Miami in a stretch of 19 games.
Expect this series to reignite the rumors that the Nationals are interested in Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who is slashing .316/.375/.538 with six homers and 16 RBIs (he’s been limited to 30 games this season, starting late because of a back problem). The Nats were linked to Realmuto in the offseason, but a potential deal stalled when Washington wouldn’t part with either of their stud outfield prospects, Juan Soto or Victor Robles. Don’t expect to run on the Marlins, who lead the majors in caught stealing percentage this year. The Fish have been getting both power and high on-base marks from first baseman Justin Bour, a slugger who seems to have figured out that walking can help his team. Bour has a team-high nine homers and 23 RBIs, and has already walked 37 times, putting him on pace to blow by his season high of 47 last season. Rookie center fielder Lewis Brinson, the key piece Maimi received from the Brewers in the Christian Yelich deal, has been feast or famine: He has six homers and 17 RBIs, but is batting a paltry .162. Second baseman Starlin Castro, shortstop Miguel Rojas and third baseman Brian Anderson each have 21 RBIs this season. But the Marlins rank dead last in the majors in runs scored (167), home runs (37), stolen bases (10), slugging percentage (.342) and total bases (567).
Right-hander José Ureña, who starts Friday’s opener, is 0-7 in 10 starts and leads the NL in losses. He’s not getting hammered on a regular basis, just not pitching well enough to win and has been plagued by poor run support - an average of 2.2 runs in his starts. Four times in his past five starts, Ureña has worked at least six innings. In eight career games (two starts) against the Nats, he’s 1-2 with a 4.84 ERA. Saturday starter Wei-Yin Chen hasn’t made good on the five-year, $8-million deal he signed in January 2016, and his 2018 debut was delayed until late April by a partially torn elbow ligament in his throwing arm. He won his debut on April 28, but has yet to win in four starts since and has yet to pitch more than 5 1/3 innings. Chen has struggled against the Nationals, posting a 1-5 record and 4.69 ERA in eight career games (seven starts). Rookie righty Elieser Hernandez, a Rule 5 pick from the Astros, has fared well in his two starts, going 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA and going five innings in each outing. He’s never faced the Nationals.
Veteran submariner Brad Ziegler hasn’t had a bunch of save chances this season, but he’s 9-for-9 when called upon to protect a lead. Still, he’s posted an 0-3 record, a 6.55 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP, not exactly stellar numbers for a closer.