The Washington Nationals and the Miami Marlins — two of the four National League East teams under .500 in the standings — are set to start a three-game series on Tuesday night in the nation’s capital.
Washington, which has lost five straight games, will start right-hander Josiah Gray (2-1, 3.14 ERA). Miami will counter with right-hander Sandy Alcantara (1-0, 1.86).
The Marlins are on a modest two-game winning streak after defeating the Atlanta Braves 5-4 on Sunday to win the three-game series.
“To get a series win early in the year is huge for us,” Marlins first baseman/designated hitter Garrett Cooper said. “It’s huge for our morale going forward.”
Marlins manager Don Mattingly will have confidence sending Alcantara on the mound. Alcantara will enter Tuesday’s game after throwing eight scoreless innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday. His effort produced a no-decision without any run support in the 2-0 defeat.
“He was on the attack,” Mattingly said of Alcantara. “It’s a shame to waste an effort like that.”
Alcantara has struggled in eight career starts against Washington, going 2-6 with a 5.32 ERA.
It’s possible the Marlins could get back starting shortstop Miguel Rojas on Tuesday. Rojas has missed two straight games due to the flu. He was at the ballpark in Atlanta on Sunday, a sign he is on the road to recovery.
In addition, Marlins starting catcher Jacob Stallings appears to be OK despite being hit on the back of the head by Marcell Ozuna’s swing in the fourth inning on Sunday. He stayed in the game.
Stallings, the reigning NL Gold Glove winner at catcher when he was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, has caught all three of Alcantara’s games this year.
Offensively, the Marlins haven’t found their stride, with the exception of second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. (1.067 OPS), center fielder Jesus Sanchez (.924 OPS) and third baseman Joey Wendle (.851 OPS).
The Nationals, meanwhile, have the fourth-worst OPS in the National League (.615). And their team ERA of 5.41 is the worst in the majors.
A Nationals bright spot had been their bullpen, but that was blown up in Sunday’s 12-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Washington’s relievers allowed seven earned runs in five innings.
“Falling behind, not throwing strikes, walks,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said when asked what happened to his bullpen on Sunday. “Hopefully they got that out of their system, and they can come right back on Tuesday.”
The Nationals need a strong start from Gray, who has allowed just four hits and one run in his past two outings, covering a span of 10 1/3 innings.
However, Gray has yet to last longer than 5 1/3 innings in his three starts this year.
Gray, 24, is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts against the Marlins. Both of those starts took place in Miami.
The Nationals have some injury/illness concerns with three hitters: center fielder Victor Robles, who missed Sunday’s game due to a groin injury; first baseman Josh Bell (right hamstring); and third baseman Lucius Fox (flu).
Martinez said Bell’s MRI came back “pretty clean”, meaning he could return on Tuesday.
Bell leads Washington in RBIs (12) and OPS (.955).
Nationals star right fielder Juan Soto is off to a bit of a slow start, hitting .242 with three homers but just three RBIs.
–Field Level Media