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After a five-game road swing that saw the Washington Nationals travel to both Queens and Dunedin, Fla., the Nationals return home this weekend for a big-time series with the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins, fresh off a surprising campaign  in 2020, have gotten out to an 11-13 start. They are only a half-game above the 9-12 Nats in a crowded National League East. In 2020, the Marlins won the season series 6-3, and went 3-2 in the nation’s capital. 

Marlins’ Season to this Point

The Marlins are led by a young core of players with a mixture of aging veterans on team-friendly contracts. Outside of Starling Marte, their trade deadline acquisition from last season, everyone on the team is on cheap contracts. Even though the team made the postseason in 2020, the Marlins are still in the midst of a rebuild.

Holding the No. 4 ranked minor league system in Major League Baseball, the Marlins still have the majority of their talent ripening in the minors. Players like Sixto Sanchez, who was acquired in the JT Realmuto trade, JJ Bleday, former first-round pick out of Vanderbilt, and Jazz Chisholm, rookie sensation who recently was placed on the Injured List, highlight this deep, talented system for the Fish. 

So far this season, the Marlins have rebounded from a 1-6 start and gone on to win 10 of their last 17 games to inch closer to .500. Miami has been incredibly streaky this season, but has found something of a rhythm lately, winning its last series against the Milwaukee Brewers. That culminated in a getaway day victory over Milwaukee in rather dominating fashion as pitcher Sandy Alcantara baffled the Brewers in a 6-2 win on Wednesday afternoon. 

Factors in this Series

For this divisional series, the focus will be on the pitching. Neither team has found consistent success so far this season on the mound. Luckily for these teams, none of the other teams in their division have been much better.

The division-leading Atlanta Braves have stumbled out of the gate as well, only at 12-13 so far. This series will be very big for both teams, as the Marlins send two of their best young pitchers to the hill against the Nats with Pablo Lopez starting Friday night and Trevor Rodgers taking the mound on Sunday afternoon. 

Specifically for the Nationals, it will be huge to find offensive success this weekend as they have struggled recently with the bats, but put up eight runs on Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays. They are led by Trea Turner, their superstar shortstop who has heated up recently.

Turner hit two home runs on Tuesday in a loss and followed that up with a 4-for-5 day on Wednesday. Additionally, it is unclear whether or not star outfielder Juan Soto will be activated from the IL. Early indications imply that it will be at some point this weekend, but he has not yet resumed throwing. 

Also, the Nationals will hope to see improvements from two of their aces, Patrick Corbin and Max Scherzer. Corbin struggled mightily to begin the year after a stint on the COVID-19 list, but has had two relatively solid outings since then.

Against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night, the long ball victimized Scherzer, giving up two home runs in five innings. In addition, activated from the COVID-related IL will be veteran southpaw Jon Lester. According to rumors that have been confirmed, Lester will make his Nats debut at home against Miami.

This does move some pieces around in the rotation. Saturday, Corbin was expected to get the nod due to the five-day rest schedule. According to the original plan, Joe Ross was scheduled to start on Friday night.

Clearly, the Nats are going a different direction. Most likely, Ross will be the odd man out this weekend. The Nats’ only confirmed starter to this point is Scherzer, who is slated for Sunday.

Series Overview

As the Marlins and Nationals face off this weekend, they will both be trying to turn around their seasons. The Marlins are still rebuilding, but they do have a lot of young talent. The team would want nothing more than to surprise the world again and win ballgames — this time over a 162-game stretch.

The Nationals have underperformed, with some of that due to COVID issues and the injury bug. As the team nears full strength, winning without some of their key pieces will be integral to their success. Even more so, the Marlins are a division foe and, in all fairness, a team the Nationals should beat.

Nonetheless, this should be a competitive series with Jesus Aguilar of the Marlins heating up and the Miami pitching staff beginning to find a groove. The sense of urgency is stronger for the Nats this weekend as they don’t necessarily want to dig themselves a massive hole early in the year.

Probable starters

Friday, 7:05 pm.: Pablo Lopez (MIA), 0-2, 2.93 ERA @ Jon Lester* (WASH), 0-0, 0.00 ERA

Saturday, 1:05 p.m.: Paul Campbell (MIA), 0-1, 8.22 ERA @ Patrick Corbin* (WASH), 0-3, 10.47 ERA

Sunday: 1:05 p.m.: Trevor Rodgers (MIA), 3-1, 1.29 ERA @ Max Scherzer (WASH), 1-2, 3.00 ERA

*Currently unannounced but rumors speculations indicate that this will be announced soon
Lester’s numbers from