The Washington Nationals (85-52) are set to face off against the last-place Miami Marlins (61-77) for the final time this season. It’s been a disappointing season for the Marlins, who made a huge splash in the free agent market this past offseason, acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell, among others. Now, after trading away some major pieces, the Marlins hope to just end the season as quickly as possible. The Nats want to try to make it painful.
After their five-game losing streak, which ended against the Marlins, the Nats apparently decided they really don't like losing and have just been tearing through their opponents. They have gone an incredible 8-1 since the end of that short losing bout, including their most recent massacre of the Chicago Cubs.
During that period of success, the Nats have averaged 8.75 runs per game and allowed just 3.38 runs. They won't want to lose any momentum in this series against an NL East rival that's 24.5 games behind them and as they start a nine-game stretch against division rivals.
The Marlins have always given the Nats fits, and this season is no exception, despite the clear difference in the standings. The Nats are 8-7 against the Marlins this year, so this series will determine who wins the season series, although that’s a pretty insignificant thing considering the Marlins overall record. The Nats are 5-1 against them this season, which can only mean the Nats are as horrified as we are of the over-the-top home run statue of some marlins in center field at Marlins Park.
Since these teams last met, the Fish have gone 2-5, while the Nats have only lost one of their six games in September. Meanwhile, the Nats retain the best record in baseball by 2.5 games over the Cincinnati Reds, they are one of just three teams in baseball with more than 80 wins, and their magic number is 18.
Strasburg to make his last home start
Stephen Strasburg’s season is nearing its end, and he didn’t make the shutdown decision easy on his bosses. With two starts remaining, including his final home start tonight in the series opener, Strasburg has a 15-6 record and a 2.94 ERA in 156.1 innings. He’s allowed just 1.12 WHIP, and opponents are hitting just .225 against him. The Nats will certainly miss their ace, but we can all look forward to many more years of his stuff in DC.
Mike Rizzo believes that Stephen will accept his fate, "I don't think he is going to fight me on it. I know he will be unhappy about it. He is an ultra competitor. We have taken that out of his hands. This is a developmental decision and it ultimately falls on the doorstep of the general manager, and we made it five months ago and we are going to stick to it."
Giancarlo Stanton has owned Nationals pitching historically, and he’s hitting .389 off of them so far this season. Just a few days ago, Stanton took the clean up role from Carlos Lee, who offered some advice.
"Lee made a suggestion earlier in the homestand, when the Marlins faced Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals. I told him the other day, sometimes you've got two guys on base and you're facing a guy like Strasburg. It's a guy who probably won't give up a three-run homer, so you've got to find a way to get the one, the guy on third base in. Things like that. You're not always going to hit the three-run homer. Get that one in."
Stanton hit his 30th home run of the season on September 4, which puts him tied at eighth most home runs in the majors with Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers and Mark Trumbo of the Los Angeles Angels. Still, Stanton is going through a bit of a slump — he is 4-for-24 through his last six games — but the threat of power is always there.
The Marlins are dealing with their own little bit of pitching tweaks as the season winds to a close. Miami is on a six-man rotation to ease the load on Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi, even though Ozzie isn't a fan of it.
The change could affect Mark Buehrle most, because it will give him one fewer/less start on the year and might determine whether he makes it to the 200 inning mark for the 12th year in a row. The veteran lefty has thrown 173 2/3 innings, and if he averages seven innings in his final four starts, Buehrle would finish with 201 2/3 innings.
"I talked to Buehrle about it," Guillen said. "He says he wants to have 200 innings. If we've got seven innings from Buehrle, that means we're winning the game."
Donovan Solano (at least one hit in 17 of his last 19 games)
Justin Ruggiano (LF) .269 AVG, .321 OBP, .308 SLG, 1 SB, 26 AB (last seven games)
Bryan Peterson (LF) .316 AVG, .409 OBP, .421 SLG, 1 SB, 19 AB (last seven games)
Ryan Webb (RP) 1.93 ERA, .409 BAA, 6 SO, 1 BB, 2 HLD (last seven games)
Giancarlo Stanton (RF) .185 AVG, .214 OBP, .333 SLG, 1 HR, 14 SO (last seven games)
Jacob Turner (SP) 6.55 ERA, .238 BAA, .500 SLG, 11 SO, 11 IP (in two starts with the Marlins)
Stephen Strasburg (15-6, 2.94 ERA) vs. Jacob Turner (1-3, 6.55 ERA)
Ross Detwiler (9-6, 3.15 ERA) vs. Mark Buehrle (12-12, 3.73 ERA)
Edwin Jackson (9-9, 3.63 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (11-12, 4.64 ERA)