MIAMI - I swear the Nationals will play teams other than the Braves and Marlins this season.
It might not seem that way, given the schedule of late, but you’ll have to trust me on this.
The Nats open a three-game set in Miami tonight, a series that will cap off 12 straight games against the Braves and Marlins and 15 straight games against division opponents to begin the season.
Given the way things went in Atlanta over the weekend, the Nats might be pretty pleased that they won’t be seeing their top division rivals for a little while.
To open the season, the Nats are 1-5 against the Braves and 6-0 against everyone else.
They were outscored by a total of 14-1 in the first two innings of their games with Atlanta the last three days, made seven errors and ran into a number of outs on the bases.
Manager Matt Williams talked all spring about wanting his team to be fundamentally sound. He wanted to improve a defensive unit that ranked 13th in the National League in fielding percentage last season. He wanted his players to be aggressive on the basepaths but pick their spots and be smart with that aggressiveness. He wanted to put pressure on the Nats’ opponents.
After the tough series in Atlanta, the Nats rank last in the majors in fielding percentage, having made 13 errors in 12 games, and the aggressive baserunning has led to a handful of scoring opportunities ending in a hurry.
“It bothers everybody, but that’s going to happen,” Williams said. “You certainly don’t want it with consistency, but there’s nothing you can do about it now.”
The good news here is that the Nats and Braves won’t meet again for more than two months, and Williams’ team won’t be back in Atlanta again until Aug. 8.
The Nats can put the Braves out of their minds for a little while, and just focus on playing good ball against the rest of the league.
It sure doesn’t hurt that the Nats will now have three games against the Marlins, a team that has lost seven games in a row coming into tonight.
We’re set to see Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark for the Nats this series, with the Marlins sending Brad Hand, Tom Koehler and 2013 National League Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez to the mound.