Washington Nationals Need To Sweep Miami Marlins To Stay In Playoff Race

By James Williams
Brad Mills – USA Today Sports

One thing is clear as the Washington Nationals get ready for a three-game weekend series in south Florida: they need to sweep the Miami Marlins and hope that the Los Angles Dodgers can do the same on the road against the Cincinnati Reds.

As of this morning, the Nationals trail the Reds by seven games with 22 games left in the 2013 season. A sweep this weekend over Miami and the Dodgers helping out by taking the series in Cincinnati would really help keep the hope alive for the Nationals.

It will be Dan Haren (8-12, 5.02 ERA) going for Washington in the series opener while the Marlins will send their Rookie of the Year candidate, Jose  Fernandez (10-6, 2.33 ERA) to the mound.

Fernandez  has a major league-low 1.58 ERA since the start of July, striking out 89 in 74 innings. He yielded six runs in six starts during August, winning the NL rookie of the month for the second straight time as he held opponents to a .158 average — the best in baseball.

Miami has made the choice to put the 21-year-old right-hander on a pitch limit. As of today, he has thrown 158.2 innings, and the Marlins recently reiterated that his limit is 170. Miami want his final two outings to come at home, where he’s 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA. The Marlins have won his last nine starts in Miami.

One of those victories was his only outing against the Nationals, with the righty going six innings and surrendering one run one four hits — all singles — in a 2-1, 10-inning win July 13.

Meanwhile, Haren threw six scoreless innings that day and will oppose Fernandez again tonight. Haren had been pitching great for the Nationals recently, posting a 4-0 record with a 2.03 ERA in his previous six starts before getting rocked for seven runs and nine hits in 2.2 innings of Saturday’s 11-3 loss to the New York Mets.

Rant Sports columnist James Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award winning, producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Wordmandc and be part of his Google+ group.

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