The Miami Marlins are coming off of a strong road trip, winning 6 of their 7 games. They took three of four from the Atlanta Braves and swept the Houston Astros to pull up to 50-53. The Marlins now trail the Washington Nationals by 7.5 games, with a three game series set to begin Monday night.
Any decision of what the Marlins decide to do at the July 31st trade deadline could hinge on this series.
To help preview this ultra important series we reached out to friend of Marlin Maniac, Pablo Roa for a quick chat on what to expect in the series. Pablo is the editor of the Fansided Nationals site, District on Deck. DoD does a phenomenal job of covering the Nats, from their always interesting star Bryce Harper to the team’s ace Stephen Strasburg.
Here is the conversation I had with Pablo:
Marlin Maniac: The Nats have been playing well of late and have gotten sole possession of first, what has helped them turn things around?
Pablo Roa: It certainly helped that key players started to get healthy. Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos — arguably the team’s three best hitters — all missed significant time on the disabled list early in the season. The Nationals’ offense was one of the worst in the National League when those three were out and, while the bats still haven’t performed all that great, the return of those three players provided a major boost for the offense. That being said, a lot of things went into the turnaround. The defense improved dramatically since the beginning of the season and several key players have broken out of early season slumps. Having one of the best pitching staffs in baseball helps, too, and that’s been a constant all season. While bench players performed well in place of all the injured players, the pitching staff is the main reason the Nationals have stayed in the race and own the best record in the National League.
MM: What’s the latest on the Ryan Zimmerman injury situation? When should we expect to see him back? Any other injuries the Nats are currently dealing with?
PR: Although no timetable has been announced by Zimmerman or the Nationals, Ken Rosenthal reported this weekend that Zimmerman could be out 6-8 weeks with what has been described as a “significant” strain in his right hamstring. Assuming the Nationals don’t acquire an infielder in the coming days, Anthony Rendon will take over third base duties in place of Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa, Zach Walters and Kevin Frandsen will platoon at second base in place of Rendon.
MM: Bryce Harper is still one of the more polarizing figures in baseball. What do Nats fans think about his the media hysteria surrounding him?
PR: I can’t speak for all Nats fans but, in my opinion, I think the Bryce Harper situation has been incredibly overblown. Sure he’s made mistakes, but people tend to forget that Harper has had the spotlight on him since he was 16-years-old and that he’s still learning to be a big league player. Most players at his age are still in the minors and Harper has been forced to learn on the job. Would it be better if he would just keep his mouth shut and play baseball? Sure. But the fact that every little thing he does/says tends to draw heavy criticism from the media and even from his own fans is absurd. He may not be playing well right now, but Harper is still, in my opinion, the most talented player on the team. Hopefully, once he turns things around with the bat, people will forget the ridiculous drama that surrounded him earlier in the season.
MM: What kind of deal can we expect the Nats to make at the deadline? Do you feel they have any major holes?
PR: I don’t think they have any major holes. The pitching staff is arguably the best in the game and, when healthy, the offense has provided enough support to win ball games. That being said, rumors are going around that the Nationals are looking for bullpen help and a second baseman to make up for the loss of Zimmerman. However, I don’t foresee the Nationals making any major moves at the deadline. The team is pretty well-rounded and although two months without Zimmerman will definitely make things more difficult, the Nationals have plenty of depth and GM Mike Rizzo is usually reluctant to make any emergency moves that could have a negative impact on the team’s future.
MM: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the pitchers the Marlins will face this series?
PR: Jordan Zimmermann, the starter for today’s game, showed some rust his last time out after missing 11 days due to the All-Star Break and a biceps injury. However, the right-hander has been solid of late, boasting a 2.56 ERA in his last 10 starts.
Stephen Strasburg gets the start tomorrow as he looks to earn his eighth win of the season and lower his 3.67 ERA, which is the worst in the rotation. The right-hander struggled his last time out, surrendering three runs in the first inning (4 total) against the Rockies en route to his eighth loss of the season. Hopefully for the Nationals, Strasburg will turn things around against the Marlins on Tuesday.
Tanner Roark, the starter for Game 3, looks to build off a dominant start against the Reds his last time out in which he gave up just one run on three hits over seven innings of work. Roark has been arguably the team’s best starter this season and should have a good game against the Marlins on Wednesday.
MM: Any predictions for the series? Will the Nats soil any chance of a Fish run at the postseason?
PR: I’m almost always wrong when I do these series predictions, but I think the Nationals will take two out of three from the Marlins.
There you have it. We want to thank Pablo for giving us such great insight into the Nationals, and remember to check out District Deck for all the latest Nationals’ news and notes. I certainly agree with Pablo that Harper gets way too much flack for no reason a lot of the time.
Hopefully the Marlins can play well this series and force the front office’s hands to try and improve this team.