The Washington Nationals (7-5) recently experienced what it’s like to be swept, and they would like nothing more than to remind the Miami Marlins (2-10) of the feeling.
The Nats swept the Marlins in the first series of the season, and after dropping their last three contests to the Atlanta Braves, they will hope to repeat their early level of success again in Florida. This series will be the beginning of the Nationals’ six-game road trip through the NL East, facing both the Marlins and the New York Mets.
During the series opener, the Marlins and Nationals, as well as all players across Major League Baseball, will wear jerseys emblazoned with number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson day.
No Fish to Fill the Outfield
In the last week, three of the Marlins’ five outfielders have suffered health complications. First, Giancarlo Stanton went down with a bruised shoulder, and missed the entire series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Then, Justin Ruggiano sat out Saturday’s game because of a tight right groin, and just a day later fellow-outfielder Austin Kearns was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat.
Marlins manager Mike Redmond said the team would re-evaluate Stanton on Monday and decide if he was ready to play against the Nationals. But even if he returns to the lineup, there is no doubt the outfield will not be playing at 100 percent.
"We're out of outfielders, so [Ruggiano] is going to play right field," Redmond said, according to MLB.com. "With Stanton out, we're a little thin. Well, we're very thin. We're running out of options out there. He's got to play. I don't have another outfielder."
After facing a Braves outfield that frequently robbed the Nationals of hits, perhaps the Nats can take advantage of the Marlins’ current misfortune to bolster the spirits of their offense.
Through the first 12 games of 2012 the Nationals pitching staff boasted a 1.91 ERA, which was the lowest in the majors. This year, their ERA currently stands at 4.38, 11th in the majors. Because the Nationals are a team that leans so heavily on the pitching staff to achieve success, every pitcher is going to have to sharpen up, and Miami may be the right team for them to do it against.
The Nats pitched well against the Marlins in the opening series, giving up only one run and 15 hits in three games, shutting out the Fish in the first two face-offs. Eight of those 15 hits were given up by Jordan Zimmermann, who, despite letting the Marlins get on base frequently, was still able to hold them to only one run scored. The bullpen gave up only two hits in the whole series.
If the Nats can put in a repeat performance of their pitching from the first series, even if you want to argue their success was simply a result of the Marlins sub-par hitting, this series might be the boost they need to get their confidence back up.
The Marlins team ERA is currently 3.71. Their starters have a lower ERA than the Nationals – 2.78, which is good for fourth best in the NL, while the Nats are at 3.50, sixth in the NL – but both teams have been struggling out of the bullpen. Nats relievers have a 5.90 ERA, which is second worst in the NL, and the Marlins’ bullpen is at a 5.45 ERA, fourth worst in the NL.
In The Zone
Kurt Suzuki did well on Sunday, going 2-for-3, and accounting for half of the Nationals hits for the day against the Braves.
Placido Polanco (3B) .381 AVG, .458 OBP, .476 SLG, 1 SO (last six games)
Mike Dunn (RP) 2.84 ERA, .208 BAA, 1.26 WHIP, 6 SO, 6.1 IP
Juan Pierre (LF) .174 AVG, .224 OBP, .174 SLG, 4 SO (12 games)
Giancarlo Stanton (RF) .167 AVG, .342 OBP, .233 SLG, 12 SO (nine games)
4/15, Jordan Zimmermann (2-0, 2.08 ERA, 5 SO, .1.31 WHIP) vs. Wade LeBlanc (0-2, 3.27 ERA, 10 SO, .256 BAA)
4/16, Dan Haren (1-1, 9.00 ERA, 10 SO, .413 BAA) vs. Alex Sanabia (1-1, 4.91 ERA, 2 HR, .318 BAA)
4/17, Ross Detwiler (0-0, 0.69 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) vs. Ricky Nolasco (0-1, 3.12 ERA, 9 SO, .258 BAA)