Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins series primer

Left-hander Brad Hand will take the mound for the series-opening game between the Marlins and Nationals.

Steve Mitchell/Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins (74-77) return from a 10-game roadtrip to begin their final homestand of the 2014 season without slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

Meeting them at Marlins Park will be the Washington Nationals (87-64), owners of the National League’s top record, for a four-game series.

After clinching the NL East on Tuesday night, the Nationals vie for home-field advantage in the postseason. They pushed back their rotation a day and went with a "B" lineup in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.

Miami and Washington will face each other eight times over the final 11 games. The Marlins trail the series 5-6. The Marlins are just 1.5 games behind the Braves for second in the division.

Left-hander Brad Hand opens the series on Thursday. His first start of 2014, in place of Jacob Turner, was on April 9 against the Nationals. He gave up three runs on four hits in just 3 1/3 innings. Last Saturday in Philadelphia, Hand took the loss after allowing two runs on four hits in six frames for his second consecutive quality start. Local product Gio Gonzalez will make his first start at Marlins Park since 2012. Last Friday, he gave up four runs (three earned) over 6 2/3 against the New York Mets. He has dropped six of his last eight decisions.

Although righty Tom Koehler will just miss on 200 innings, his stability in the rotation has helped a young staff. Of his 30 starts, 19 have been quality ones. Koehler has tossed five straight no decisions — last winning Aug. 17 — but the Marlins have been victorious in two straight. In Philadelphia last Sunday, he permitted three runs (two earned) on seven hits over six frames. Righty Doug Fister will be making his first start against the Marlins. Last Saturday in New York, he earned the win by allowing three runs (two earned) in six frames. Fister has two straight quality starts after three consecutive losses.

Take away his first start as a Marlin and righty Jarred Cosart is 4-1 with a 1.52 ERA over his last seven outings. On Monday against the Mets, he allowed two first-inning runs before tossing five shutout frames in a row for the no decision. Righty Jordan Zimmermann rides a six-game winning streak. He has not lost in the second half. Washington has been victorious in his past nine outings. In New York last Sunday, he pitched 6 2/3 shutout frames.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi has failed to pitch into the fifth in his past two starts, surrendering a total of 10 runs on 14 hits in 8 1/3 innings. He has a six-game losing skid and last won Aug. 8. Although righty Stephen Strasburg is a dominant force, the Marlins always give him trouble. He is 7-5 with a 3.94 ERA in 17 starts. Strasburg has tossed four straight quality starts, including one Monday in Atlanta with seven scoreless innings.

Here’s a look at the upcoming Nationals-Marlins series…

SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS

Done for the year

WHO’S HOT

SS Ian Desmond (Nationals): On the current roadtrip, Desmond is 8 for 24 (.333) with seven runs, three doubles, a homer and five RBI. He has also stolen four bases. Desmond ranks fifth in the NL with 88 RBI.

2B Donovan Solano (Marlins): To cap a 10-game trip, Solano collected consecutive three-hit nights. Over the two-game stretch, he went 6 for 10 with a run and an RBI. Prior to it, Solano was 1 for his last 15 with no runs, no RBI and four strikeouts.

WHO’S NOT

2B Asdrubal Cabrera (Nationals): Cabrera is 2 for his last 19 (.105) with just two runs, two doubles and no RBI. He doesn’t have a multi-hit game since Sept. 5. In a Nationals uniform, Cabrera is batting .229.

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Marlins): Even with a two-hit game on Tuesday, Saltalamacchia went 3 for 24 (.125) with a double, no runs and no RBI on the roadtrip. Over the last 10 games, he is hitting .176 with 11 strikeouts and one walk with three runs driven in.

STORYLINES

22: Straight road games with a homer for the Nationals, second best in MLB history since 1900

.304: Average for Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon against the Marlins in 11 games this season

208: Hits allowed by Eovaldi, most in the NL

1.38: ERA for Koehler in two starts against the Nationals this season

QUOTE BOARD

"That’s a nice win for us, for our team. No doubt this has been an emotional trip for us losing (Giancarlo) and all we went through. Coming in here and keep battling and get a big win and win the series here, that’s huge." — Manager Mike Redmond, to reporters in New York, on finishing the trip 5-5.

"Yeah, of course. Everything that is better for us we’ll take it. We’re going to finish the season strong." — Second baseman Donovan Solano, to reporters in New York, on the club possibly finishing second in the division.

PROMOTIONS & GIVEAWAYS

Sept. 18 — Seniors Free Ticket Thursday presented by Wellmax Medical Centers; Marlins Cap Thursday Night group offer

Sept. 19 — Fireworks Friday (postgame Fireworks Spectacular)

Sept. 20 — Saturday Spectacular (postgame party and DJ at The Clevelander and East Plaza); Hispanic Heritage Night; Marlins Foundation Jerseys Off Their Backs; All You Can Eat Special

Sept. 21 — Jose Fernandez Bobblehead; Family Sunday (Snapshot Sunday and Radio Disney pregame, Diamond Dash postgame); Roberto Clemente Day; Youth Baseball & Softball Day; Pepsi 4-for-$54 Pack

LOOKING AHEAD

Sept. 22: Off day; Sept. 23-25: Phillies at Marlins

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.