It's no secret that the Marlins are rebuilding this season and will likely contend for the worst record in baseball. You look up and down Miami's roster and there really isn't much top-notch talent beyond Giancarlo Stanton.
Still, games aren't played on paper. Beyond that, the Marlins have traditionally played the Nationals tough, including last year, when the teams split the season series despite the Nats winning the division and the Marlins coming in last in the National League East.
So today's 6-1 Nats win, giving Washington a three-game sweep over their division rivals, meant a little something to the guys in the home dugout.
"No matter what they put out there, we've had trouble with them," manager Davey Johnson said. "So it was good to spank them this series."
The Nats held a tight 3-1 advantage in the seventh inning this afternoon when Jayson Werth clubbed a three-run homer beyond the visiting bullpen in left field, opening things up a bit. It was Werth's first extra-base hit of the season and his second hit on the afternoon after going 0-for-8 over the first two games.
"He got all of that one, didn't he?" Johnson said. "He wasn't real happy the first couple games about the way he was swinging, because he was really swinging good coming out of spring training. But he swung really good on that one. So I think he's fine."
Werth's health has been a topic of conversation since NatsFest, when he told reporters that doctors have informed him that the left wrist - which he broke last season - likely won't be back to full strength until after this season is over.
"I guess it was batting practice on the off-day, he said his wrist was feeling stronger," Johnson said. "Felt like he was feeling good about it, and then he got in a little bit of a funk out there (the last two games). And he had such a great spring, his stroke was so good all spring. A lot of guys were that way and now they're kinda, cold weather, trying to do a little too much. Expanding. But I know he feels good about it. I like what I saw all spring. I would've never noticed his wrist was bothering him the way he was taking BP and all."
Jordan Zimmermann got the win today, going six innings allowing just one run. Zimmermann allowed eight hits on the day, but was able to get timely outs and dance out of a couple jams.
"Obviously Zim didn't have his greatest stuff, but pitched a heck of a ballgame," Johnson said. "Good six innings. Mixed his pitches up and he threw some pretty good changeups."
The Nats got a bit of a scare when Bryce Harper crashed into catcher Rob Brantly on a play at the plate. Harper stayed down for a couple seconds, clutching his face, as it appeared that he took a Brantly elbow to the jaw.
"I thought it cut him," Johnson said. "I mean, the angle I had, it looked like he really got something real hard hit him in the coconut. So I was coming out there and of course J-Dub (Werth) said, 'There's no blood. You can go back.' We were all relieved after that."
Even Henry Rodriguez got in on the act today, throwing a perfect seventh inning that included a strikeout of Stanton on a filthy curveball.
"That's going to be his role, setting up, late-inning relief," Johnson said. "And if he's on the ballclub, I'm using him. Threw the ball good. 1-2-3. Can't beat that."
Rodriguez was throwing in the 93-95 mph range, topping out at 96 mph. That's down a bit from his normal high-90s heater.
"Maybe it's just the cool weather," Johnson said. "But he threw some good pitches. He'd made good progress all spring. Power arms come (around) later, and optimistically, I was seeing progress all spring. Up until the last couple days, he was a lot closer to where he needed to be. So that's big."
Johnson said that he's not concerned about the slow starts put up by Danny Espinosa (who is hitless in 11 at-bats) and Ian Desmond (one hit in 10 at-bats). He is, however, liking what he sees from Ryan Zimmerman, who went 3-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs today and has reached in his last six plate appearances.
"It's better than he swung it all spring," Johnson said. "I like his approach. I like what I'm seeing. I think the last six at-bats, he's hit like six bullets. He's using everything. He's right on time. (Marlins starter Wade LeBlanc) was a good guy for him today, throwing cutters in on him. Got the bat out front, pulled a couple balls foul. That's him."
"Hopefully, we get a little warmer weather going in there. But we look at every game as a big game. That's the way we look at it. I know everybody likes to hit in that ballpark. So it should be fun."