Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
As the Marlins kick off their third series of the year today, they will likely face their stiffest test of this young season. The Marlins have travelled to the nation’s capital to take on Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals. The Nationals have gotten off to a solid start and are just half a game behind the Marlins for first place in the N.L. East. The Marlins quick start can be attributed to their timely hitting on offense to go along with a stellar bullpen. Miami has one of the best run-differentials in baseball at +21.
This game should be an interesting litmus test to see just how far the Marlins have come. Not to take anything away from the Rockies and Padres, but if the Marlins are going to compete this year, they have to do well against their division foes, particularly Washington and Atlanta.
Miami will send Henderson Alvarez to the mound, with hopes that he can put his rough start to 2014 behind him. After throwing a no-hitter to end the 2013 season, Alvarez allowed the first 6 Colorado Rockies to reach in a disastrous first inning to begin 2014. He went on to lose that game as a Miami comeback fell just short. Henderson is a better pitcher than he showed last week, but he needs to work on his command. His pitches were catching too much of the plate and the Nationals will make him pay if he does that again.
The Marlins must hope that their early season success against lefty pitching continues tonight. They have collected wins against Jorge De La Rosa, Brett Anderson, and Eric Stults. Unfortunately, none of those pitchers are in the same category as Gonzalez. If Miami is able to get to him early and manufacture a run or two, they will have a chance.
Here are the starting lineups for tonight’s game:
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This Marlins lineup is a consistent one that manager Mike Redmond has displayed against lefties earlier in the season. An interesting note is that Christian Yelich is again not in the starting lineup, instead giving way to Reid Johnson. Yelich has struggled some early this season, but certainly not enough to be treated as a platoon player. I would be more apt to let him work through the issue rather than damage his confidence and only run him out to face righties. His splits are not too bad against left-handed pitching anyway. I can understand wanting to get the hot hitting Johnson in the lineup, just not at the expense of Yelich.
This game will tough for the Marlins. So much depends on Henderson Alvarez and whether he is able to neutralize the Washington hitters. If he pitches a strong game, it will likely come down to a one run game. I just don’t see it happening. I hope I am wrong but I believe the Nationals will win this game by a score of 5-2.