Marlins-Nationals Preview

Denard Span will seek a piece of team history while trying to

boost the Washington Nationals’ faint postseason hopes.

Span will try to become the second Nationals player to register

a 30-game hit streak in Thursday night’s series opener against the

Miami Marlins.

Span extended the longest hitting streak of the 2013 season with

a single in the seventh inning Wednesday but the Nationals (81-71)

fell 5-2 to NL East-leading Atlanta. Washington’s loss was only its

second in 12 games but was a big blow to a club that still faces a

5 1/2-game deficit to Cincinnati in the race for the NL’s final

wild-card berth.

“We just can’t afford to lose,” manager Davey Johnson said after

the end to a three-game win streak. “We’ve just to start another

win streak. It’s that simple.”

Span will try to match teammate Ryan Zimmerman’s 30-game run

from 2009, the longest since the relocation from Montreal following

the 2004 season. Vladimir Guerrero had a franchise-record 31-game

run for the Expos in 1999.

Dan Uggla was the last major leaguer to have a hit streak of 30

games or longer, a 33-gamer July 5-Aug. 13, 2011, for Atlanta.

Span, batting .371 during his streak, is hitting .341 against

Miami (56-96) this season and is 4 for 6 with two doubles all-time

against scheduled starter Henderson Alvarez (4-4, 3.97 ERA).

Alvarez is coming off a dominant 3-0 win at the New York Mets on

Saturday. The right-hander allowed four hits and walked none over

seven innings and is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his two road starts

this month.

“It’s nice to get the solid pitching performance from Alvarez.

He looked great,” manager Mike Redmond said.

Alvarez gave up one run in 1 2-3 innings in Washington on Aug.

28 before a rain delay ended his start in a 4-3 defeat. He allowed

two runs over 6 2-3 innings July 14 in his only other start against

the Nationals this season but did not get a decision in a 5-2

loss.

Stephen Strasburg was originally scheduled to start for

Washington in this game but his return from forearm tightness was

pushed back until Saturday. The Nationals will instead send out Gio

Gonzalez (10-7, 3.40).

Gonzalez had a three-start win streak snapped Saturday with a

5-4 defeat to Philadelphia. He gave up four runs and nine hits over

six innings after posting a 0.42 ERA in his previous three

starts.

Gonzalez began that impressive stretch with a 9-0 win over Miami

on Aug. 29, yielding three hits and three walks while striking out

eight in seven innings. The left-hander has pitched 13 scoreless

innings against the Marlins, losers in 10 of 13.

Miami earned one of those rare wins Wednesday, 4-3 in 10 innings

at Philadelphia, as Ed Lucas hit the tiebreaking solo homer.

A second straight victory looks unlikely as Miami has dropped

all six games in Washington this season and six of the past seven

overall matchups.

The Nationals will try to secure the franchise’s first set of

back-to-back winning seasons since Montreal finished 83-79 in both

2002 and 2003.