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A look at the Marlins vs. Nats series

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A look at the Marlins vs. Nats series

By Doug McKinney
CSNwashington.com

Nationals @ Marlins49-34 1st in NL East 41-44 4th in NL East

The RundownFriday, July 13-Monday, July 16Series 29Season Series Record: Marlins lead 3-2

Pitching Probables
Friday, July 13 7:10 pm
Jordan Zimmermann (5-6, 2.61 ERA) @ Josh Johnson (5-5, 4.06 ERA)

Saturday, July 14 7:10 pm
Gio Gonzalez (12-3, 2.92 ERA) @ Mark Buehrle (8-8, 3.25 ERA)
denotes left handed pitcher

Sunday, July 15 1:10 pm
Stephen Strasburg (9-4, 2.82 ERA) @ Ricky Nolasco (8-6, 4.35 ERA)

Monday, July 16 7:10 pm
Edwin Jackson (5-4, 3.73 ERA) @ Carlos Zambrano (4-7, 4.20 ERA)

Whos Hot & Whos Not
Nationals
Hot: SS Ian Desmond .378 AVG, 5 HR, 12 RBI in last 10 games
Not: LHP Sean Burnett 6.00 ERA in July

Marlins
Hot: OF Logan Morrison - .394 AVG, 3 HR, 10 RBI in last 10 games
Not: Closer Heath Bell 0-2, 9.64 ERA, in last 10 appearances
A Series Look
The Marlins flat out own the Nationals. Since coming to DC in 2005, the Nats have played the Fish 130 times, producing an awful 49-81 record against the artists formerly known as the Florida Marlins.

Tonights starter, Josh Johnson, is 8-0 with a 3.24 ERA and 87 strikeouts (his second most against any MLB club) against the Nationals. Luckily for DC, Miami wont have the services of OF Giancarlo Stanton (right knee). Stanton has posted video game like numbers against Washington. In his three-year career, the Marlins rightfielder is hitting .328 (with an absurd 1.122 OPS), belting 11 home runs (next closest total against another team: 8 vs. Phillies) and driving in 25 runs.

While the Nats have yet to win in the quirky Marlins Park, there may not be a better time to break that trend. The Marlins are 12-22 since the last time these two teams met up. Meanwhile, the Nats now own the best record in the National League and hold a nine-game lead over the fourth place Marlins.

A lot of analysts and fans were calling the Nationals series sweep over the Giants a statement series, but those who really know the Nats, would call this four-game set a more important one. Not only has Washington had problems with Miami, but manager Davey Johnson wants to open the second half of the season on a winning note. Doing so in a ballpark where they have yet to win a game, against a team they have struggled with, could go a long way for this club.

Prediction: Nationals win series 3-1

News and Notes
>There were whispers that RHP Drew Storen (elbow) would be activated for Friday nights series opener, but it sounds like the Nats brass want him to spend some more time on a rehab assignment. When the 24-year old returns, he will not be inserted into the closers role. Im expecting him to be brought back (to make his 2012 debut) when the team returns to DC for their series against the Mets on Tuesday.

>Staying on the DL front, utility man Chad Tracy (groin) should be back with the club in the next week or so. He had a setback during rehab over the weekend, but if he is cleared to resume playing in games, he shouldnt need very much longer. Tracy has been the Nationals best pinch hitter this season (.265 AVG, 3 HR, 12 RBI).

>With the All Star break over, its expected that Jayson Werth (wrist) will start swinging a bat in the near future. Werth had previously started baseball activities before the break. As Mark Zuckerman reported, the club is eyeing an early August return for the rightfielder. The former All Star was batting .276 with 3 HR, 12 RBI and a .372 OBP.

>Chien-Ming Wang (hip) starts his rehab assignment tonight with AAHarrisburg.

>The Nationals four All Star selections (Ian Desmond, Gio Gonzalez, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg) are the most since the team came to DC.

>Tonight is the deadline for teams to sign their picks from the 2012 MLB Draft. The Nationals are hoping to agree to terms with first round pick RHP Lucas Giolito

Down on the Farm

>AAASyracuse: The Chiefs sent four players to the AAA All Star game this past week (Corey Brown, Zach Duke, Jim Negrych and Carlos Rivero) LHP John Lannan, who started two Opening Days for the Nationals, has posted a quality start in six of his last eight outings.

>AAHarrisburg: OF Chris Rahl (William & Mary) won the Home Run Derby at the 2012 Eastern League All Star game. For video, check out: Senatorsbaseball.com.

>A (Advanced)Potomac: The P-Nats have hosted a lot of big leaguers on rehab assignment over the last couple weeks (Storen, Tracy, Xavier Nady to name a few) There is still no update on 2011 1st round pick 3B Anthony Rendon (ankle). The Nationals expect him to return to action sometime in August.

>AHagerstown: 2011 1st round pick Alex Meyer is fresh off his appearance in the Futures Game. Meyer flashed a good fastball, dialing up 98 MPH on the radar gun. In addition to his heater, Meyer possesses a plus slider and a developing change-up. Look for a promotion to APotomac before the season is over Multiple position players are having fine seasons for the Suns including 3B Matt Skole (.280 AVG, 21 HR, 73 RBI, 14 2B) and OF Brian Goodwin (.315 AVG, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 14 SB) Former prospect who went by the name Esmailyn Gonzalez (now Carlos Alvarez) made his debut for Hagerstown last night, going 0-for-3 (with an RBI and BB) and serving as the DH.

>A (Short Season)Auburn: RHP Taylor Jordan, a 2011 SAL Mid-Season All Star, is currently rehabbing for the Doubledays Pedro Encarnacion, who was demoted from AHagerstown earlier this season, has been in a groove since the move (2-0, 1.71 ERA, 20 K7 BB in 21 innings).

>RookieGCL and DSL Nationals: 2008 5th round pick Catcher Adrian Nieto is currently on a rehab assignment for GCL Nationals. Expect Nieto to rejoin AHagerstown once he is ready, where he will return to a .259 clip (4 HR, 25 RBI) Relief pitcher Rafael Martin, who is highly regarded by some members of the Nationals think tank, has pitched in two games recently for the Nats rookie club. He is on the mend after violating MLBs drug policy.

Q&A Corner

This weeks guest is Matt Eddy, Associate Editor of Baseball America. (For more go to BaseballAmerica.com)

CSN: The trading deadline is approaching rapidly and so far, the first place Nationals haven't been mentioned as buyers in trade rumors. Do you think that will change and who will they be targeting?

BA: If the Nats are going to make a July trade, it'll be for an outfielder it would seem. Either a center fielder to take burden off Harper or a corner guy in the event that Werth doesn't make a full return. They look like they're in good shape everywhere else, especially if Storen returns at a level similar to last season.

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What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

It was just a few weeks ago that Joe Ross' postseason availability was in question, and if he could return in time, whether he would pitch out of the Nationals' bullpen and or as a starter wasn't clear. Manager Dusty Baker wondered aloud if he would get his young right-hander back, even as Stephen Strasburg dealt with elbow injuries.

The progress Ross has made in a short period of time since is remarkable and after his 90-pitch outing on Thursday afternoon against the Diamondbacks, the 23-year-old looks and feels ready for the playoffs, and not just to pitch in relief, either.

"I'm hoping I get the opportunity to start, but that's up to them," Ross said. "But I'll take any opportunity I get to pitch and go out there and compete. I just want to help the team in any way I can."

Ross wasn't great on Thursday in his third start back from the disabled list. He only made it four innings, as his pitch count soared early. But in giving up just one run, he's now pitched 9 2/3 innings in three games back. During that stretch he's allowed three runs and struck out 14.

[RELATED: Wilson Ramos hopes to be back with Nationals]

It has been a process of baby steps for the Nats starter, a slow progression back from right shoulder inflammation, an injury rehab that featured a setback in late July. Now, though, he is essentially back to normal, just in time for the NL Division Series which begins next week.

"I feel good. I felt really good today. I felt really good last start. I guess it's just a point of executing pitches," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind really on whether I can go out and compete."

Baker mentioned that Ross could pitch in releif early in the NLDS against the Dodgers. That could keep him available for a start later on, if it's kept short like a normal bullpen session.

But one has to wonder if Ross has improved his case enough to pitch Game 3 of that series, given Gio Gonzalez' recent struggles. The lefty has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 23 innings going back five starts.

Regardless, Ross has certainly come a long way in just three MLB outings.

"He looks ready," second baseman Wilmer Difo said through an interpreter.

With all the negative injury news the Nationals have received in recent days, between Wilson Ramos' season-ending injury and Strasburg essentially ruled out for the NLDS, having Ross fully back in the mix is a nice change of fortune for the NL East champs.

[RELATED: Matt Belisle sounds like safe bet for Nats playoff roster]

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Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos won't be on the field for the Washington Nationals when the team takes on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. Divisional Series next week.

The 2016 N.L. All-Star catcher will undergo surgery to repair the ACL he tore in his right knee on Monday night against the Diamondbacks

Ramos has been arguably the Nationals' most constant offensive threat this season, and had positioned himself as the team's backstop for the foreseeable future.

But the injury changed everything.

Not just because the surgery and rehab will stretch well into Spring Training, but because the 29-year-old Ramos will become a free agent at the end of the season. On top of that, a second ACL injury (He tore it in 2012 as well) means that taking the field everyday as a catcher may not be a viable option for him much longer.

"Unfortunately, this injury happened so close to the end and it may affect whether I’m able to stay with a National League team or not," Ramos told reporters prior to the Nationals' 5-3 win over the Diamondbacks on Thursday afternoon.

"But if it’s up to me, I definitely would like to keep playing for the Nationals and play as long as I can."

Ramos is a solid defensive catcher, but his biggest strength is at the plate. Being able to be a part of a lineup everyday is where he is most valuable, and that may mean playing in the American League, where he can serve as the designated hitter and fill in as catcher.

But this doesn't mean Ramos is done as a member of the Nationals, just that he's aware his time could be coming to an end.