Opposite dugout: Marlins looking to win season series against Nationals

marlins-logo.jpgManager: Dan Jennings (1st season)

Record: 63-83

Last 10 games: 7-3

Who to watch: 2B Dee Gordon (.332/.358/.416 with 39 RBIs, 51 SB), 3B Martin Prado (.285 with 54 RBIs), SS Adeiny Hechavarria (.281 with 48 RBIs), RHP Jose Fernandez (5-0, 2.06 ERA), RHP A.J. Ramos (27 saves, 2.53 ERA)

Season series vs. Nationals: 8-7

Pitching probables:

Sept. 17: RHP Jarred Cosart vs. RHP Tanner Roark, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 18: RHP Jose Fernandez vs. RHP Max Scherzer, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 19: LHP Brad Hand vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann, 4:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 20: LHP Justin Nicolino vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg, 1:35 p.m., MASN

Inside the Marlins:

When the Marlins look back at a disappointing 2015 season, they might take solace in the fact that they performed well against one of the best teams not just in their division, but in the National League. Say what you will about the Nationals' struggles this year, but they have one of the most talented teams in baseball, and Miami enters this last series against the Nats with its only winning record against a division rival.

Despite just winning two out of three in New York against the Mets, the Fish are only 8-11 versus the division leaders. Against the fast-sinking Braves, the Marlins are just 6-10 with a three-game home series left. And the Phillies are the worst team in baseball (but only 1 1/2 games below Atlanta), but Miami is a lowly 5-8 against the Phils with three-game home and away series left to play. But lo and behold, the Marlins are 8-7 against the Nationals, an underachieving, yet still very talented team.

Still without Giancarlo Stanton (who could be activated sometime this weekend), the Marlins are led by second baseman Dee Gordon, who is now third in the majors with a .332 batting average and second with 51 stolen bases. Left fielder Christian Yelich is doing well at the plate, \with a .283 average and 37 RBIs. Third baseman Martin Prado has been able to do some damage against Nationals pitching this year, hitting .321 on the season and .320 in 25 at-bats at Nats Park. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria has done similar damage against the Nationals and in D.C., batting .326 and .318 respectively, but he's been sidelined by a hamstring injury.

If this weekend's Marlins rotation looks familiar, that's because it's the exact same as last week's series in Miami, just with an added bonus on Sunday.

Right-hander Jarred Cosart will start the series opener for the Fish against the Nats for the second time in a under a week. Cosart is still 1-4 on the season, but has brought his ERA down to 4.58 thanks to his last outing against the Nationals. Last Friday, he pitched five innings, giving up no runs on just four hits and three walks with five strikeouts. Cosart threw 90 pitches with 55 going for strikes in the 2-1 Marlins win, and his strikeouts included Ian Desmond and both Michael A. Taylor and Bryce Harper twice. Cosart is 1-2 with an 8.46 ERA in five starts on the road this season and 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA in his only career start in D.C.

Thanks to his start against the Nationals last week, Jose Fernandez has improved to 5-0 with a 2.06 ERA on the season. The left-hander has allowed just two runs over his last three outings, thanks in part to his five shutout innings against the Nats at Marlins Park last Saturday. Over his five innings, Fernandez allowed just two hits and one walk, while striking out seven. He was in line for the win thanks to the Marlins scoring a run apiece in the fourth and fifth innings, despite only throwing 69 pitches, 43 for strikes. Only one of Fernandez's wins has come on the road, where he has a 3.50 ERA, entering his first start at Nats Park.

Lefty Brad Hand was the only Marlins starter to earn a loss last week, but keep in mind that Max Scherzer also threw eight stellar shutout innings. But Hand didn't help his own cause much, lasting just 3 1/3 innings while giving up five hits, three runs and four walks to fall to 4-6 on the season with a 5.32 ERA. He has still never beaten the Nationals, now going 0-7 with a 7.97 ERA in 11 appearances including nine starts. He is 0-3 with an 8.44 ERA in six career appearances (five starts) at Nationals Park and 1-4 with a 7.60 ERA in five starts over 16 appearances on the road this season.

The newcomer this weekend is rookie left-hander Justin Nicolino. He has only made nine starts this season, but is 3-3 with a 3.81 ERA and all three wins coming on the road. Nicolino earned the win in his major league debut on June 20 in Cincinnati, pitching seven scoreless innings while giving up four hits and two walks with two strikeouts. He has been pretty consistent over his short career, pitching at least six innings in six of his starts. This will be Nicolino's first time facing the Nationals, bringing his 3-0 record and 1.69 ERA on the road to D.C. The southpaw throws an 87 mph fastball 57 percent of the time and is good at mixing in his 81 mph changeup, 86 mph cut fastball and 75 mph curveball.

The Marlins are only 2-4 at Nationals Park this season, but this four-game series will provide them a chance to end their season series against the Nats on a high note. They have done well recently to secure their spot in third place in the NL East despite hoping for a better finish at the start of the season. But finishing 2015 with a winning record against one of the division's tougher clubs could provide Miami some optimism for 2016.

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