- The Washington Times
Friday, May 25, 2018

The Nationals will face the last-place Marlins for the first time this year when they begin a series Friday night at 7:10 p.m. in Miami to start a three-city road trip.

Here are three things to look for.


Offensive woes

Despite 15 wins in 21 games, the Nationals have several everyday players struggling at the plate.

That includes center fielder Michael A. Taylor (.186), third baseman Anthony Rendon (.248) and even right fielder Bryce Harper (.232), hitting .172 in the last 15 games.

Though he has 15 homers, Harper is batting .194 in his last 30 games.

He entered this season with a career batting average of .285. He hit .319 last year and .330 as the MVP in 2015.

The Nationals have a team batting average of .238 but have 62 homers, ranked near the top of the league.


A chance to face division foes

The Nationals have made two West Coast trips but will not face the Marlins until Friday night.

Washington has not faced a National League East foe since a May 6 home game with the Phillies.

Washington has not played a division road game since April 18 in New York against the Mets.

The Marlins are 19-30 while the Nationals are 26-22, and three games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves.

The Nationals are now in a stretch where they play in the east coast time zone until July 23 when they begin a series in Milwaukee.

The Marlins don’t come to town until July 5.


The starting rotation

The Nationals starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.97, second best in the league. Washington has gone 23 games in a row with a starter allowing three earned runs or fewer.

The pitching rotation for the series is Max Scherzer (7-1, 1.78) on Friday, Tanner Roark (2-4, 3.39) on Saturday and Stephen Strasburg (5-4, 3.36) on Sunday.

Roark has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his last six starts against the Marlins. Strasburg has gone 18 innings in a row without allowing a run to the Marlins.

The staff will have to contend with Marlins slugger Justin Bour, a product of George Mason University.

The Washington native has nine homers and 23 RBI and is hitting .243. He went to Westfield High in Fairfax County.

The Nationals will then begin a series on Monday at 1:05 p.m. in Baltimore against the Orioles, who like the Marlins, hold last place in their division.

That could mean Gio Gonzalez (5-2, 2.38) will pitch Monday, Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 2.13) on Tuesday and Scherzer on Wednesday in Baltimore.

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