Manager: Don Mattingly (3rd season)
Last 10 games: 6-4
Who to watch: 2B Starlin Castro (.287 with 116 hits, 60 runs); 1B Justin Bour (16 HR, 47 RBIs); RF Brian Anderson (.285 with 113 hits, 23 2B); C J.T. Realmuto (.304 with 49 RBIs); RHP Dan Straily (4-4, 4.02 ERA); CL Kyle Barraclough (2.45 ERA, 10 saves)
Season series vs. Nationals: 1-6
July 26: RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-7) vs. RHP Dan Straily (4-4); 7:10 p.m., MASN
July 27: RHP Max Scherzer (13-5) vs. RHP Pablo Lopez (2-1); 7:10 p.m., MASN
July 28: LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-7) vs. RHP Trevor Richards (3-5); 7:10 p.m., MASN
July 29: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-1) vs. RHP JosÃ© UreÃ±a (2-10); 1:10 p.m., MASN
Inside the Marlins:
At first blush, it might be tough to get excited about a team sitting 15 games below .500. But given the downright dismal expectations heading into the season, there's no doubt the Marlins have overachieved. No, there won't be any playoff baseball in south Florida anytime soon, but after watching most of their top teammates find other homes during the offseason, the remaining players are still competing. The Marlins will hope to reverse some of their early season misfortune as they host the Nationals, against whom they're a meager 1-6 on the year.
A year ago, the Marlins finished the season ranked third with a .267 team batting average. It was a formidable lineup, led by speedster Dee Gordon, rising star Christian Yelich, and National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton. Flash forward to this season, and Gordon, Yelich and Stanton are all gone, leaving a Marlins squad hitting a collective .245. There's still some talent, to be sure. Second baseman Starlin Castro is batting .287 with a team-high 116 hits, and first baseman Justin Bour and left fielder Derek Dietrich provide some pop with 16 and 13 home runs, respectively. Catcher J.T. Realmuto continues to grow behind the plate. The catcher is hitting .304 this season, and made his first All-Star Game appearance last week. Don't expect Miami to steal any bases during this four-game series, however. The team is dead last in the senior circuit with 29 stolen bases, and nobody on the team has more than six for the season.
Dan Straily starts tonight's series opener. The right-hander has had an up-and-down season so far, dropping three straight decisions after beginning the year 2-0. He's registered a quality start in all four of his July outings, though, including allowing two earned runs over six innings in a game against the Nationals on July 6. Rookie Pablo Lopez has held his own across four starts for the Marlins. The righty made his major league debut on June 30 against the Mets, and earned his first career win in the process. He was roughed up in his next two starts, issuing five earned runs in each, but rebounded nicely in his latest start against the Rays. In that game, Lopez allowed just one earned run over six innings of work. Fellow rookie right-hander Trevor Richards will look to win his fourth game of the year Saturday. The Nationals should be familiar with Richards, having faced him less than three weeks ago. In that start, Richards kept Washington off the scoreboard for the most part, but certainly not off the base paths. He issued a career-high seven walks in less than four innings, and will need to exude better control this time around. Sunday's starter, meanwhile, righty JosÃ© UreÃ±a, is still searching for some run support. In his 20 starts this season, the Marlins have scored five runs or fewer 18 times, including two runs or fewer nine times. Understandably, UreÃ±a is just 2-10 on the year, but is undefeated when his team scores more than six runs.
Journeyman Brad Ziegler began the season as the Marlins closer, but was pulled out of the role on Memorial Day after struggling to find consistency. He's been replaced by right-hander Kyle Barraclough (anyone else crave a pastry when hearing that name?), who has picked up 10 saves and boasts a 2.45 ERA.