As part of our series preview content, we want to offer Marlins fans with some insight into the team that they will be facing. We carry out this in many ways, and one of them is to interview editor’s of other Fansided team pages so we can get the in-depth information that you need heading into the series.
We were fortunate enough to connect with Pablo Roa, the editor over at District on Deck, our Fansided Nationals site. Pablo gave us some information that we could expect as the Marlins head to the nation’s capital.
MM: The Nationals were a major disappointment last season, missing the playoffs after being an early World Series favorite. What do they need to do to avoid that this season?
Roa: Given that the Nationals have one of the best pitching staffs in Major League Baseball, the key for the team to live up to its expectation this year is offense. Prior to September of last season, the Nationals were simply unable to hit with runners in scoring position — squandering nearly every scoring opportunity they had with the bat. In order to achieve their lofty goals, the Nats will have to get the big hits late in the game and everybody in the order will have to produce at the level that we all know they are capable of producing. If the Nats have the offense to back their strong pitching staff, this team is as good as any in the National League.
MM: I know it’s early, but how is Matt Williams doing as the Nationals manager so far?
Roa: Well that really depends on who you ask. Williams has certainly caused some controversy with the lineup, batting Adam LaRoche cleanup, putting Ian Desmond at the bottom of the order and moving Bryce Harper all over the place. But really, it’s only crazy if it doesn’t work, and so far, it has actually worked for the most part. LaRoche is batting just .250 but has hit two home runs and already has eight RBIs. Not exactly fantastic, but he certainly looks better early on than he did last season. Desmond has once again shown that he’s comfortable anywhere in the order, hitting clutch home runs against the Mets and Braves from the seventh and fifth spots.
I think Matt Williams has done a great job not based on what he’s done over the first six games of the season, but based on the attitude and passion he brings to the club every day. Players are more aggressive than they were last season, they’re taking more chances while playing smart and, most importantly, they’re leaving it all on the field.
MM: What’s the latest on the injury front on third baseman Ryan Zimmerman? Are there any other injuries that could potentially impact this matchup?
Roa: Zimmerman had an MRI on his surgically repaired right shoulder that showed no structural damage in the shoulder. Appart from some inflamation and soreness in the shoulder it looks like his injury is not severe and he could avoid a trip to the disabled list. Zimmerman will be reevaluated Tuesday, at which point we should find out whether or not the third baseman will play a role in this week’s series against the Marlins.
The Nationals’ beat writers announced over the weekend that Gio Gonzalez has fought the flu, a bug that has followed the team since spring training. I haven’t heard anything about his start being in jeopardy, but it will be something to keep an eye on throughout the day Tuesday. Other than that, Scott Hairston, Wilson Ramos and Fister will all be out for at least the next couple of weeks and will not have an impact on this series.
MM: The Nats made some big time moves this off-season, which one do you see benefiting the Nats the most this season? What about longterm?
Roa: There are two moves that I think will make a major impact for the Nationals this season. The obvious one is Doug Fister, who essentially replaced Dan Haren in the rotation. Once Fister comes off the disabled list, I see him providing an immediate boost to a rotation that is already one of the best in the game. Fister is also under team control through the 2015 season and will benefit the team in the long term.
Another trade that I think will make a big impact for the Nationals this year is the acquisition of catcher Jose Lobaton from the Rays. With Wilson Ramos out for the forseeable future and that there’s no gaurantee he will stay healthy once he returns, it would not be surprising if Lobaton sees more action than Ramos behind the plate this season. Ramos is a major part of this team’s lineup and for good or for bad, Lobaton will likely be the Nationals’ starting catcher for most of the season.
MM: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the pitchers the Marlins will face this series?
Gonzalez followed up a strong spring with an excellent start against the Mets last week in which he gave up just one run over six innings.
Roark pitched just as well against the Mets on Thursday, giving up two runs while striking out five over six innings. The pressure remains on Roark to succeed as he is still in an open competition with Taylor Jordan for the fifth spot in the rotation once Fister returns from the disabled list.
After missing his scheduled start Thursday because of the flu, Jordan Zimmermann pitched a great game against the Braves on Friday, giving up one run over five innings while striking out nine batters. Zimmermann led the National League in wins last season (19) and appears to be back in mid-season form early on in 2014.
MM: Make a bold prediction for the series. Do you think the Nats can sweep the Marlins out of the Nation’s capital?
Roa: Led by strong pitching performances from Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Jordan Zimmermann, along with a powerful slump-ending series from Bryce Harper, the Nationals will sweep the Marlins and take a 7-2 record to Turner Field when they face the Braves on Friday.
We want to thank Pablo for giving us some insight to his team. If you want to get even more knowledge about the Nationals, head over to the District on Deck, where you can get the best content around.