W2W4: Miami Marlins vs. Washington Nationals – 7/31

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 26: Jose Urena
ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 26: Jose Urena /

The Miami Marlins will look to keep their resurgence going, welcoming the Washington Nationals into Marlins Park for a three-game series.

For the Miami Marlins, their second half push might be too little, too late. After struggling through the month of May, the team appeared to be poised to make a run in the second half of the season. They were slow out of the blocks, and became sellers at the deadline.

With little hope of making the playoffs, the Marlins are playing for pride, and to see what they have moving forward. There are a number of auditions taking place for the 2018 rosters during the final two months of the season.

One piece that is mostly solidified will toe the rubber for the Fish today: Jose Urena (9-4, 4.04 ERA), will take on the Nationals Gio Gonzalez (8-5, 2.81 ERA).

Here are three stories to keep an eye on during todays Marlins vs. Nationals game:

Gonzalez against Marlins

Gio Gonzalez was homegrown right here in Miami. He’s from Hialeah and played at Pace High School. Playing for the NL East rival Nationals, he gets to make frequent visits to his home city. After spending the early part of his career with the Oakland A’s, Gonzalez has been in Washington for six seasons now.

He’s yet to post a year better than his first with the team. It remains the only year he’s made the All-Star team in the National League.

This year he’s faced the Miami Marlins twice. He’s pitched well, notching a 1-0 record, with a 2.08 ERA. While walking only four batters, he’s struck out 15 and surrender only one home run. He’s dominated them in both appearances.

But this is a Miami Marlins lineup that has found it’s stroke lately. They’ve shown the ability to put up runs in a hurry. If they want to take game one of the series, they’ll need to jump on Gonzalez early and run up his pitch count.

The Nationals have a surprisingly weak bullpen. If they Marlins can get into early, it sets them up well to win this game, as well as the following two games in the series.

Nationals haven’t seen Urena much

If you’re looking for an edge to the Miami Marlins in this pitching matchup, it’ll be hard to find. Gonzalez might not be an elite arm in the league, but he’s comfortably in the second tier. Meanwhile, the Marlins send Jose Urena who is just beginning to establish himself in the MLB.

But if there is an advantage to be found, it’s the element of surprise. Nationals hitters have a surprisingly low number of looks against Urena.

Of Nationals hitters, Howie Kendrick has the most at bats against the Marlins righty with seven. After Him, it’s Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy with four, Anthony Rendon has three, Ryan Zimmerman has two, and Adam Lind has one.

Prior to this season, Urena worked mostly in a relief role, going back only to 2015. He has all the tools to shut down the Nationals lineup if he is on his game. Being relatively unknown will be his biggest asset in this start.

Trade deadline

Given that it is July 31st, it’s impossible to ignore looming trade rumors. For the most part, the Miami Marlins are done on the market. There appeared to be a market for A.J. Ellis, but with the Cubs and Rockies filling those vacancies, he appears to be staying in Miami.

There were whispers of a Dan Straily deal getting done, but the Marlins appear to have had too high an asking price. He started against the Reds on Sunday and pitched well. But the fact that the Marlins allowed him to make his scheduled start against the deadline means nothing is nearly done.

The team is looking to build it’s rotation quickly and make a playoff run next season. If not for a top pitching prospect who is MLB ready by 2018, the team will hold him. With several years of team control ahead, there is no urgency to unload his contract.

Next: Jose Fernandez would have been 25 today

The Miami Marlins open their three-game set against the Nationals on Monday. If they are able to take the series, it will mark the fourth consecutive series victory for the club. Getting a win to kick off the set would go a long way.