Opposite dugout: Streaking Marlins look to stay hot on mound with Nats in town

marlins-logo.jpgManager: Mike Redmond, second year
Record: 51-53
Last 10 games: 7-3
Who to watch: RF Giancarlo Stanton (.292/.391/.536, 24 doubles, 23 HR, 69 RBIs, 66 R); CF Marcell Ozuna (.270/.318/.456, 15 doubles, 16 HR, 55 RBIs); 3B Casey McGehee (.310/.376/.383, 24 XBH, 59 RBIs); RHP Henderson Alvarez (7-5, 2.62 ERA, 1.23 WHIP)
Season series vs. Nats: 3-5, 35 runs scored, 46 runs allowed

Pitching probables
July 28: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Jordan Zimmermann, 7 p.m., MASN HD
July 29: Henderson Alvarez vs. Stephen Strasburg, 7 p.m., MASN2 HD
July 30: Brad Hand vs. Tanner Roark, 12:30 p.m., MASN HD

Series breakdown
The last time the Nationals saw the Marlins, their division foes from Miami were one of the surprises of baseball.

Back on May 28, the Marlins were 28-25, in second place in the National League East and would have two days ahead when they'd be tied atop the division.

Miami sunk thereafter, still spending much of the year hovering around .500, but bottoming out out at 44-52 on July 19 after a six-game skid. The Marlins haven't been .500 since they were 39-39 on June 25.

The Marlins have since recovered and the Nats are catching them on a high. Washington heads to Florida with Miami the hottest team in baseball, having won four in a row and seven of eight to get back into the playoff discussion as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches.

At 51-53, the Marlins are 5 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot and seven games behind the Nats for first place in the NL East.

Pitching has been the key, as Miami has allowed just seven runs during its four straight wins and has held opponents to three runs or fewer in six of the last eight contests.

Overall, Miami is tied for 11th in the NL with a 3.92 team ERA, ranks 13th with a 4.09 starters' ERA and ninth with a 3.61 bullpen ERA. But those lower rankings can be tossed out for the time being with the Fish frying the competition from the mound.

The Nats will have to go through three of the Marlins' top four starters in a series that begins with two solid pitching match-ups.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi faces Jordan Zimmermann in tonight's opener seeking his first win since June 23. He has endured a rough patch since, going 0-3 with a 6.39 ERA in his last five starts. But before that tumble, Eovaldi had a 3.52 ERA in 16 starts.

Right-hander Henderson Alvarez goes up against Stephen Strasburg in the middle contest for the featured duel of the set. Alvarez has taken over ace duties for the Marlins with Jose Fernandez out for the year following Tommy John surgery, and the 24-year-old has earned the title.

Alvarez might be just 7-5, but he ranks fifth in the NL with a 2.62 ERA and leads the major leagues with three shutouts. He has allowed more than two runs just once in his last 12 starts, going 5-2 with a 1.89 ERA during that time.

Left-hander Brad Hand takes on Tanner Roark in the series finale, having been a solid contributor to the starting staff since joining it at the beginning of July. In five starts this month, Hand is 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA, allowing no more than three runs in any outing. His last two starts have been especially impressive with two earned runs in 14 1/3 innings (1.26 ERA).

In addition to the pitching coming through of late, the Marlins continue to be one of the top offensive teams in the NL. They rank fifth with 429 runs (Washington is sixth with 428), sixth with a .254 average and seventh with a .699 OPS.

Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton has remained the lineup's feared centerpiece, leading the NL with 69 RBIs, ranking second with 23 homers and fifth with a .927 OPS. He's having a down July, however, batting .213 with two homers, nine RBIs and a .651 OPS in 22 games for his worst numbers of any month this year.

Left fielder Christian Yelich has helped pick up for Stanton since returning from the disabled list on June 29, batting .337 with 11 RBIs and an .843 OPS in 23 games.

Center fielder Marcell Ozuna (15 homers, 54 RBIs), catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (10 homers), first baseman Garrett Jones (10 homers) and third baseman Casey McGehee (59 RBIs) have helped make the Marlins order a deep and daunting one.

As for the two division rivals, the Marlins haven't been the Nats' whipping boys this season the way they have in recent years. Miami won its last two over Washington for its first consecutive wins against the Nats since July 12-13, 2013 to end a run of 14 losses in 17 games against them.

The Nats will be hoping to put a stop to the Marlins' winning ways, however, and seize greater control of first place in the NL East before the deadline arrives on Thursday.

Marty Niland: History shows Rizzo deals for differ...
Good outweighs bad as Nats claim series win over R...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/