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Series Preview: Marlins at Nationals

Taking a look at the particulars of the four game set in the nation's capitol. Plus, five questions with Federal Baseball's head honcho, Patrick Reddington!

You have the smoothest palms in America, my friend.
You have the smoothest palms in America, my friend.
Joe Skipper/Getty Images

The Miami Marlins ended a homestand on Wednesday that saw them go 5-4, sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks, dropping a series to the Philadelphia Phillies two games to one, and lastly (but not leastly) taking two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers. They will bring an overall record of  18-15 north to take on a familiar foe: The Co-NL East leading Washington Nationals.

Opponent Snapshot:

Washington Nationals


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The Nationals are presently tied with the New York Mets at the top of the division. They are, frankly, coming off of a tremendously uplifting victory which saw Max Scherzer strikeout twenty Detroit Tigers en route to a 3-2 win. This will mean, fortunately, that the Fish will miss Scherzer in this series. Unfortunately, Bryce Harper is in the midst of appealing the one game suspension levied against him earlier this week so he is unlikely to miss any of these games.

The Marlins have played the Nationals to an even record (3-3)  in two series thus far. This was originally a three game series but the two teams will be playing a double-header on Saturday to make up for a rain driven postponement back on April ninth.

The Marlins only find themselves 2.5 game back of the Nationals entering this series, so obviously a series win or sweep would drastically alter the look of the NL East standings come Monday morning.

Probable Pitching Match-ups:

  • Game One (Friday) 7:05 PM ET: Tom Koehler vs. Gio Gonzalez
  • Game Two (Saturday) 1:05 PM ET: Justin Nicolino vs. Tanner Roark
  • Game Three (Saturday) 7:05 PM ET: Jose Fernandez vs. A.J. Cole
  • Game Four (Sunday) 1:35 PM ET: Adam Conley vs. Stephen Strasburg

All four games are scheduled to be carried on television at Fox Sports Florida and radio at 940 AM WINZ.

View From The Opposite Side:

Patrick Reddington runs the Washington National SB Nation blog Federal Baseball and was gracious enough to answer these five questions I threw his way (baseball metaphors!) in advance of this series:

Q: Are the Nationals defeating, meeting, or beating the expectations you had coming into the season for them?
Patrick: Meeting. At least early this season. The offense has underperformed at times, but some of the bats that have struggled to warm up (Ryan Zimmerman/Jayson Werth) have shown signs of life recently. The pitching, in my opinion has exceeded expectations so far and I really like the effect Mike Maddux seems to have had on the staff early this season. They have the third-lowest ERA in the NL as a staff thus far this season (2.88), second-lowest FIP (3.23), and highest K/9 (9.10) going into this series. I also like what I've seen from Dusty Baker and the way that the team seems to have taken to him as a manager. Whether or not that lasts, we'll see. 21-13 and currently tied for first in the division, I'll take it.
Q: Biggest surprise so far in the young season?
Patrick: Maybe Shawn Kelley? I thought he was a real under-the-radar-ish signing by Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals' front office, so maybe it's not a surprise that he's done well, but he's off to a pretty impressive start: no runs allowed in 16 appearances and 11 ⅔ innings pitched, two walks (1.54 BB/9), 16 Ks (12.34 K/9) and a .205/.239/.295 line against. I also think he's one of several options capable of closing in the future should Jonathan Papelbon falter or continue to struggle to miss bats like he has early this season. Kelley has the kind of swing and miss stuff that I think would play well in the ninth if necessary. He signed a 3-year/$15M deal with the Nationals this winter after a solid season in San Diego and so far he's been an important part of the Nationals' nearly completely-rebuilt bullpen, but he's gone about it quietly.
Q: The Nationals were seen at times last season as having a dysfunctional clubhouse, much of which seems to have been attributed to the departed Matt Williams. What has Dusty Baker and company brought to the table that has made a difference this year?
Patrick: I think Williams probably takes more of the blame than he deserves for what went wrong, which I blame mostly on the injuries and players struggling to get back up to speed once they did return to the lineup. But he definitely seemed to have lost the clubhouse. There was a fairly brutal article in The Washington Post late last season that had Jayson Werth finally snapping and letting Williams know that his approach to handling the team didn't go over well with his players. There was, according to a number of reports, a stiffness and tension in the clubhouse and that's one difference so far this season. The Nationals, as a team, seem a lot looser and confident with Baker around. I mentioned Mike Maddux earlier and I think he's had a big influence on some of the pitchers, with little tweaks here and there (Gio Gonzalez's delivery, Stephen Strasburg pitch selection) that I don't know are Maddux's doing, but seem like positive developments. I also really like what I've seen on the basepaths from the Nationals under Baker and more importantly, first base coach Davey Lopes, whose reputation as a baserunning guru preceded him and seems to be legit. They're a different team under the new regime and it's been noticeable.
Q: We all know about Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer. Who has been a key contributor to the Nationals that people (outside of Nationals fans) might not be aware of?
Patrick: Hard to ignore the impact Wilson Ramos has had behind and at the plate. Over the last two plus seasons, he's caught three no-hitters and a 20 K start.
Pitchers talk all the time about working with him, his game calling and the big target he provides behind the plate and last season he stayed healthy for a full season's worth of at bats for the first time in years.
The letdown, however, was that he really struggled at the plate (.229/.258/.358). This Spring he had LASIK surgery after a vision issue was discovered and while it makes for a nice narrative that he's turned it around at the plate, he seems to have figured something out on the offensive end. He has a .364/.404/.545 line through 24 games and 94 plate appearances with seven doubles and three home runs. That OBP, in particular, is impressive from a catcher who hasn't walked much previously. He seems to have developed so patience at the plate.
He missed some time for a death in the family, but picked up where he left off when he returned. He's also set to become a free agent after this season, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was one of the next players to sign an extension in D.C. because though they have some talented backstop prospects in the system, I don't think they have a major league-ready replacement right now so they're going to need to bridge the gap to the next catcher or go out and get one on the market this winter.
Q: Steal a Marlin: If you could pluck any one individual from the Marlins organization, who would it be and why?
Patrick: No contest. I'd take Christian Yelich off your hands in a second. Nothing against any of the options on the Nationals' roster, but I like everything that I've seen from Yelich so far in his career and he's off to another great start this season. Plus he's just 24. A future outfield of Yelich, Michael A. Taylor (or whoever emerges as an option in center) and Bryce Harper from left-to-right would be an impressive alignment. That lefty swing, the speed, I haven't watched enough/closely enough to get a good feel for how he is in the outfield, but from what I've seen I like him as a defender as well. José Fernàndez, Giancarlo Stanton, obviously, and I really like Adeiny Hechavarria as well, but Yelich is the one I would steal if I could.

Thanks again to Patrick for answering these questions on short notice and check out Federal Baseball for a Washington National's perspective!

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