Marlins-Nationals Preview

The Washington Nationals are off to their best start in 31

years, thanks in large part to stunning success from their

rotation.

Giving the ball to Stephen Strasburg appears to be a good way to

keep that prosperity going.

Strasburg looks to win his third straight start as the Nationals

try for another victory against the visiting Miami Marlins on

Saturday.

Washington (11-4) hasn’t been this good through the first 15

games of a season since going 12-3 as the Montreal Expos in

1981.

The Nationals’ early success has been sparked by the rotation’s

1.94 ERA, the lowest in baseball and best by the franchise at this

point in a season since 2003.

“We know we’re pretty good. We just have to go prove it,” said

manager Davey Johnson, whose team is tied with the Los Angeles

Dodgers and Texas for the most wins in the majors.

The Nationals proved it again Friday, winning 2-0 as Ross

Detwiler held the Marlins (7-7) to three hits while striking out

seven in six innings.

Detwiler is emerging as a key contributor to a rotation that

boasts the 21-year-old Strasburg (2-0, 1.42) as its ace along with

Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Jordan Zimmermann.

Strasburg looks to follow Detwiler’s impressive outing with one

of his own as he tries to win three starts in a row for the second

time in his career.

The right-hander was dominant through five scoreless innings

Monday before allowing two runs in the sixth and exiting a 6-3 win

over Houston.

“(Johnson) knows I want to go out there and stay out there as

long as I possibly can,” said Strasburg, who threw 93 pitches. “You

want to go seven, eight, nine innings. I got into a couple of jams

that put the pitch count up.”

Strasburg is 2-1 with a 2.82 ERA in four starts against Miami,

striking out 24 in 22 1-3 innings.

The Nationals have won four of five against their NL East

rivals.

Rick Ankiel gave Washington the upper hand in the opener of this

three-game series Friday, collecting his first homer and a double

among his three hits. The center fielder is batting .318 in seven

games after opening the season on the disabled list with a strained

left quad.

The Nationals are the surprising early leaders in the division,

a position Miami is expected to contend for. For now, the Marlins

may just be happy with getting back above .500 after their

four-game winning streak came to an end Friday.

Shortstop Jose Reyes went 0 for 3 with a walk and is hitting

.147 over the past nine games. He has never faced Strasburg.

Hanley Ramirez has, going 3 for 5 with two doubles. The third

baseman wasn’t as effective against the Nationals on Friday, going

0 for 4 after hitting .550 (11 for 20) with three homers and nine

RBIs in the previous five contests.

Anibal Sanchez (1-0, 2.92) takes the mound looking to continue

his dominance of the Nationals. The right-hander is 7-0 with a 2.06

ERA in 17 starts against them, winning his last three in the

nation’s capital while yielding one earned run and striking out 20

in 22 1-3 innings.

Sanchez allowed three runs and struck out seven in six innings

of a 5-4 win in 11 over the Astros on Sunday.