Washington Nationals (87-63) at Miami Marlins (73-77)
Thursday, September 18 - 7:10 PM EST
Marlins Park, Miami, Florida
Washington Nationals’ manager Matt Williams rested most of his regulars Wednesday, one night after clinching the National League East title. However, Williams said he expects to get many of them back in the lineup when the Nationals visit the Miami Marlins on Thursday to start a four-game series. “It’s important for us to continue to play and to have rhythm and timing and feel for the game,” Williams told reporters. “This time of year, you take days off, and your body shuts down.”
The Nationals have won eight of their last 11 games to win their second NL East championship in three years and will see the improved Marlins in eight of their last 11 contests. Miami (74-77) stands 1½ games behind Atlanta for second place in the East and are looking to finish at .500 or better for the first time since 2009. Miami’s Marcell Ozuna is 14-for-40 against the Nationals this season and Jayson Werth boasts 12 RBIs in 11 games versus the Marlins in 2014.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, MASN (Washington), FSN Florida (Miami)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals LH Gio Gonzalez (8-10, 3.79 ERA) vs. Marlins LH Brad Hand (3-7, 4.36 ERA)
Gonzalez has pitched better his last seven starts, allowing three or fewer earned runs in all of them. The 28-year-old Florida native pitched six scoreless frames to beat the Marlins on April 8 and is 5-2 in seven career starts versus the Marlins with a 1.53 ERA. Casey McGehee is 0-for-6 against Gonzalez, who is trying to avoid his first sub-.500 season since going 6-7 with Oakland in 2009.
Hand has allowed only a pair of runs and nine hits in 12 innings while going 1-1 over his last two starts since rejoining the rotation. The 24-year-old Minnesota native, who is 1-5 in his last nine outings, needs three outs to reach 100 innings for the first time in his career. Danny Espinosa is 5-for-11 versus Hand, who is 0-2 with a 7.43 ERA in three starts against Washington this year.
1. Miami SS Adeiny Hechavarria is batting .352 in September while hitting safely in 14 of 15 games.
2. Washington 3B-LF Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring) played five innings of a simulated game Wednesday and could return to the Nationals this weekend.
3. The Marlins have won a major league-best 35 one-run games, including three in their last four contests.
PREDICTION: Nationals 5, Marlins 3