The Miami Marlins will go for an improbable series victory against the visiting Washington Nationals on Sunday.
Miami has won two of the first three contests in this four-game series, including an 11-2 victory on Friday and a 3-2 triumph Saturday.
The Marlins, who are in last place in the National League East, had lost eight of 10 games before winning back-to-back contests.
“Hopefully, we will be in that (playoff) mix,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly, whose team trails the first-place New York Mets by nine games. “You have to beat the clubs in your own division.”
That would include the Nationals, who trail the Mets by five games. The Nationals, prior to this weekend, had been the hottest team in the majors with 10 wins in 11 games.
Sunday’s series finale will feature a quality pitching matchup between a pair of right-handers: Washington’s Max Scherzer (6-4, 2.19 ERA) and Miami’s Sandy Alcantara (4-6, 2.93).
Alcantara is 2-1 with a 1.19 ERA in his past four starts. He has gone at least eight innings in three of those four games.
Scherzer, who broke into the majors in 2008, is a seven-time All-Star and a three-time Cy Young Award winner. Yet Scherzer, who turns 37 next month, is having a vintage year and is on track for the best ERA of his career.
Alcantara, 25, has struggled in his career against the Nationals, going 1-5 with a 6.46 ERA in six starts. He has yet to face them this year, but Nationals stars Juan Soto and Trea Turner have raked against him.
Soto, in 17 at-bats against Alcantara, is hitting .412 with two homers. Turner is batting .333 in 18 at-bats.
Alcantara will also have to deal with Kyle Schwarber, who has hammered 22 homers this season, including 13 in his past 15 games and nine in his past seven.
Schwarber, though, went 0-for-4 on Saturday and had his six-game hit streak snapped.
“Some of the best players in the game make it look easy,” Schwarber said. “But this game is not easy at all.”
Mattingly said the Washington lineup has Miami’s respect and full attention.
“Schwarber’s been as hot as you can be. Turner’s no fun, and you don’t want to get to Soto,” Mattingly said.
Meanwhile, Scherzer has mostly dominated the Marlins in his career, going 14-5 with a 2.99 ERA in 25 starts, including two complete games.
In 12 starts in Miami, Scherzer is 7-4 with a 2.47 ERA.
Scherzer will face a roller-coaster Marlins offense that has scored at least 10 runs three times in Miami’s past eight games. In the five other games in that span, however, the Marlins have averaged just 1.6 runs.
Miami’s best hitter for average is Starling Marte, who is batting .303 despite going 0-for-4 on Saturday. Marlins utility man Jon Berti, who is batting .224, was the hitting star on Saturday, going 2-for-3 with a homer and a double.
In fact, his opposite-field homer in the fifth inning snapped a tie. It proved to be the winning run.
“Berti’s been swinging the bat good for a while now,” Mattingly said.
–Field Level Media