San Diego Padres' ace Andrew Cashner was the only starter who was in the top 30 in the National League in ERA in 2013 that the Miami Marlins faced in their first seven games, where they posted a 5-2 record. In fact, due to injury, the Marlins avoided facing the Colorado Rockies' top starting pitcher, Jhoulys Chacin, in their season opening series.
The Marlins' favorable pitching draws are no more as they head into Washington to face the Nationals starting on Tuesday. Greeting them will be Jordan Zimmermann and Hialeah's own Gio Gonzalez -- two pitchers who finished in the top 20 in the NL in ERA in 2013 among starting pitchers --
and Tanner Roark , who in 2013 posted a slim 1.51 ERA in 53 2/3 innings out of the bullpen with 5 spot starts. CORRECTION: The Nats announced today that Stephen Strasburg (yet another top 20 ERA guy) will pitch the third game of the Marlins series this week and Tanner Roark will pitch on Friday in Atlanta.
The Marlins will face this challenge without the safety net of a Jose Fernandez or Nathan Eovaldi start. Instead, the Marlins three through five starters -- Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner and Tom Koehler -- will take the hill in D.C. While Alvarez and Turner scuffled a bit in their first starts of the season against Colorado, Koehler performed admirably against San Diego.
Even though many in around baseball have pegged the Nationals as favorites to win the division, several Marlin players refuse to let the Washington series define the club's success.
"In this clubhouse, we know where we stand," reliever Mike Dunn said.
Said utility man Jeff Baker: "Obviously, you want to win those [games] in the division."
Conversely, Marlins skipper Mike Redmond says the series could indeed serve as an early barometer.
"It’s a great test for us to kind of see where we’re at," Redmond said. "We’re facing their best three pitchers. I’m excited about the opportunity to go in there and play after having a nice homestand, and hopefully we keep this momentum going."
If the Fish can manage to steal a win or two from the Nationals with the bottom of their rotation pitching, they will be in great shape heading into the following series in Philadelphia with Jose Fernandez slated to lead the charge in the opening game.