Team Record: 88-61
Marlins up next - The Nats had some unexpected trouble with the Braves and dropped their series in Atlanta over the weekend. Now they move on to Miami to take on a Marlins team that is five games out of the final NL Wild Card spot with just 13 left to play. It's desperation time for the Fish and they happen to be playing decent lately with six wins in their last 10 games. They also took two of three vs. the Dodgers two weekends ago.
The Nationals, meanwhile, have lost three of their last five. They still look to be in no danger of losing their grip on the NL East, but they aren't exactly running away with it either.
The Nats and Marlins haven't played each other since May 22. Now they will square off twice in a span of two weeks. They have three games in Miami to begin this week, then three at Nationals Park to close the season. In their 13 matchups so far, the Nats and Marlins have played almost evenly. The Nats hold a 7-6 advantage in games played and a 47-45 edge in runs scored.
Lately both the Nats and Marlins have had trouble scoring runs. They each rank 22nd or worse in baseball in run production in September. The Nationals have continued to pitch well over the last several weeks with the eighth best team ERA (3.43) in September. They are also seventh in strikeouts with the second-fewest walks.
The Marlins's 4.72 team ERA in September ranks 20th in baseball. That includes ace Jose Fernandez, who has allowed 10 earned runs in 19 2/3 innings in three starts this month. That's because of two rough starts at the Braves and Indians. Against the Dodgers two outings ago, Fernandez was his usual dominant self with 14 strikeouts and just three hits allowed in seven scoreless innings. He'll face the Nats on Tuesday.
The Nats will see lefty Wei-Yin Chen in the opener on Monday night, as he makes his return from an elbow strain. Chen hasn't pitched since July 20 and has only worked his way to 65 pitches in a simulated game, so expect him to be limited against the Nats. He did, though, pitch well against them in their lone meeting this season when he gave up three runs in seven innings at Nationals Park on April 20.
For the Marlins on offense, watch out for catcher J.T. Realmuto. He's hitting .346 with 10 RBI in 14 September games. Ichiro Suzuki has also been very good this month with a .300 average and 12 runs in 15 outings.
What happened to Yusmeiro Petit? - With Joe Ross back on the mound Sunday in Atlanta, but only able to pitch three innings, the Nationals turned to rookie Reynaldo Lopez to take over as their long reliever. They did not choose Yusmeiro Petit, the guy they signed this offseason to be their long reliever, and the guy who has pitched just 1 1/3 innings this month in one appearance on Sept. 8 against the Phillies.
That outing, in fact, is the only time Petit has pitched since Aug. 27, when he gave up five runs in one awful inning against the Rockies. That's one appearance in a span of 22 days. Petit has essentially been banished to the back of the Nats' bullpen, never to be seen again. It is September, and manager Dusty Baker has plenty of pitchers to use, but this is unusual.
It's a curious situation and one that Baker hasn't addressed all that recently. He has said at times this season that just because he's avoiding Petit, doesn't mean it's on purpose, that Petit is there for specific game situations. But Sunday certainly seemed like a good spot for Petit, yet they chose not to use him.
Is it as simple as game situations dictating his use? Or, is there another reason we have not been told of yet that is keeping him out? It's a bizarre case to evaluate, especially with two weeks now until the playoffs, where he could come in handy with his experience and versatility.
NL East Standings
Offensive game of the week: Trea Turner 9/17 vs. Braves - 3-for-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB, BB
Pitching line of the week: Tanner Roark 9/14 vs. Mets - 7.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 7 SO, 4 BB, 101 pitches (56 strikes)
Quote of the Week
"As we got into that ninth inning with a one-run lead, I got emotional. I was saying some powerful prayers... I know he’s happy today, for that, and it may add a little bit of joy to the tough time that he’s in right now.”
Tweet (or Instagram) of the Week
Mon. - 7:10 p.m. at Miami Marlins (Cole vs. Chen)
Tue. - 7:10 p.m. at Miami Marlins (Roark vs. Fernandez)
Wed. - 7:10 p.m. at Miami Marlins (Scherzer vs. Koehler)
Thu. - OFF
Fri. - 7:05 p.m. at Pittsburgh Pirates (Gonzalez vs. Taillon)
Sat. - 7:05 p.m. at Pittsburgh Pirates (Ross vs. Nova)
Sun. - 1:35 p.m. at Pittsburgh Pirates (Cole vs. Brault)
SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES