Marlins-Nationals Preview

The Washington Nationals are proving that their offense can carry them on the rare occasions when a member of their star-studded pitching rotation has an off night.

Stephen Strasburg surely would like to avoid that from happening again, though.

The right-hander looks to bounce back from a pair of shaky outings as Washington seeks a three-game sweep of the visiting Miami Marlins on Thursday.

The Nationals (6-2) got a stellar performance from starter Gio Gonzalez in a 5-0 victory in Tuesday’s series opener, but Jordan Zimmermann had the shortest outing of his career Wednesday and spotted the Marlins a five-run lead through two innings.

Jayson Werth capped the comeback and his five-RBI night with a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth that gave the Nationals a 10-7 victory. Anthony Rendon was intentionally walked in front of Werth as the Marlins hoped to induce a double-play ball.

”Knowing Jayson, if the pitcher looks at him wrong, he’ll take that personally,” reliever Craig Stammen said. ”So them blatantly walking to get to him – typically they don’t walk to get to your 3-hole hitter."

Bryce Harper, who entered hitting .160 over his first six games, started the rally with a three-run homer in the fourth.

”That’s a big swing for him, confidence-wise," manager Matt Williams said.

Washington has a 2.84 team ERA and has allowed two runs or fewer five times, but it also has won two of the three games it has given up at least six. Rendon went 2 for 4 and is hitting .419, while Ryan Zimmerman improved his average to .375 with two hits after not starting the last two games due to a sore shoulder.

The offense picked up Strasburg in the season opener March 31, when Washington rallied for a 9-7 win in 10 innings over the New York Mets.

Strasburg (0-1, 6.10 ERA) allowed four runs and struck out 10 through six innings in that game before giving up six runs – three earned – and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 6-2 loss to Atlanta on Saturday.

"I don’t feel like I got out of my game plan or anything," Strasburg said. "I really felt like I gave everything I had and battled."

Strasburg now will try to change his luck against a Miami team that also has given him trouble. He’s 2-2 with a 6.97 ERA in his last seven starts against the Marlins, pitching fewer than six innings four times – once because of a long rain delay.

Giancarlo Stanton is 8 for 21 with two homers and four doubles off Strasburg. He recorded his 13th RBI on Wednesday and will look to help the Marlins (5-4) avoid a fourth straight defeat after a hot start.

Manager Mike Redmond defended the decision to walk Rendon.

”We were trying to win the ballgame there. We were trying to get a ground ball,” Redmond said.

Miami will send Tom Koehler to the mound after he gave up two runs in six innings of an 8-2 win over San Diego in his season debut Friday. He’s 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA over his last four starts dating to last season.

The right-hander is 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA in two starts against the Nationals, though he gave up two runs and three hits in six innings of a 4-2 victory the last time he faced them Sept. 22.

Washington has outscored Miami 59-22 while winning 11 of the last 12 meetings in D.C.