The Nationals just came off a tough weekend series loss to the Atlanta Braves at home. The Braves took the home opener 2-1 on a sac fly by Jason Heyward, after a controversial call on whether a ball hit by Ian Desmond down the left field line wall was an inside-the-park home run or a ground rule double. The Nats lost game two 6-2, despite Adam LaRoche’s giant home run into the third deck. The Nats, however, turned in a much-needed win against the Braves to cap off the series on Sunday, a 2-1 win behind Ian Desmond’s home run to break the tie.
But behind all of the Nats-Braves rivalry, the first place team in the NL East is neither of them. It is, instead, the Miami Marlins. The Marlins put together multiple wins vs. the Colorado Rockies, taking 3 out of 4 and the San Diego Padres, who lost 2 out of 3 to Miami. As the Nats get ready to play the Fish, here are a few things the Nats need to do to end up winning the series and possibly stealing the 1st place position.
After the Marlins series at home this week, the Nats go to Atlanta on Friday for a re-match against the Braves, and then head to Miami on Monday for 3 games. I will be attending the game at Marlins Park on Wed., April 16.
What is Going Well for the Marlins: Most people might think pitching is a weakness, but this year it has been pretty good. The Marlins have NL Rookie of the Year and ace pitcher Jose Fernandez. Fernandez helped them get by the Padres and the Rockies, who at some times, can be a challenging team. In addition to Fernandez, the Marlins have a solid closer in Steve Cishek, as well as Henderson Alvarez, who threw a no-no on the last game of the year last year. The three of them provide quality pitching on the Marlins’ OK pitching staff. Other positives are outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, who has some major bat power, and Marcell Ozuna, who has a cannon for an arm.
What Isn’t Going Well for the Marlins: The infield. Miami has 7 infielders on their roster, but the only names people may recognize are Adeiny Hechavarria and Garret Jones. The others may not be well known but they are veterans that have played for many MLB teams. 2B Donovan Solano is the brother of Nats catcher Jhonatan Solano, but the elder Solano plays in Syracuse as of now. Casey McGehee is a veteran 1B who was a Yankee in 2009 when they won the World Series, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has a very long last name (the longest in MLB history) and a World Series ring from Boston last year. Still, this is not a powerhouse infield either offensively or defensively.
What The Nats Need To Do To Win: The Nats need to play like a team. The only real dangers on the Marlins are Fernandez (who is not pitching in this series) and Giancarlo Stanton (who is tough to face, but remember when Rafael Soriano struck him out looking on a pitch right down the middle on Opening Day 2013). So with the exceptions of Fernandez and Stanton, the Nats like they should be able to take the Marlins, maybe even sweep.
For Marlins fans, this is an important series to see how the team really is. They went 5-2 last week for the best record in the NL East, but they played the Rockies and Padres and the Marlins got home field advantage. Let’s see how they do facing a tough team on the road.