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Gonzalez heads to mound as Nats hope to sweep Marlins in opening series

Gonzalez heads to mound as Nats hope to sweep Marlins in opening series

Matt Wieters was signed by the Washington Nationals after spring training had already started.

So the veteran catcher, who had spent all of his big-league career with the Baltimore Orioles, is trying to quickly learn the patterns of the Washington pitching staff.

Wieters knows what it is like to hit against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who will start Thursday against Miami Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler in the series finale in Washington. The Nationals will be looking to sweep the three-game series after wins Monday and Wednesday, as Wieters had three hits in the second game.

Gonzalez has been with the Nationals since 2012, and each year Washington plays a home-and-home series with the Orioles.

"I remember Gio when he was younger," Wieters said. "He has definitely evolved his pitching style where he can pitch in different ways. That is something you will see as a catcher that you will have multiple options and you kind of point him in the direction for whatever we need that day."

Gonzalez has made at least 32 starts in six of the last seven years, but his ERA has risen in each of the last four seasons.

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He will be opposed by Koehler, who was 9-13 last season with a 4.33 ERA in 33 starts. The product of Stony Brook in New York is 1-2 in five career starts against the Nationals with a 4.50 ERA.

"He doesn't give in (to hitters) ever. He tries to give you as many innings as possible," Marlins closer A.J. Ramos said. "He is a competitor. He is always prepared. He has the preparation and desire. That is all we ask of starters: Go out there and keep the game close and do your best."

Koehler has given up six home runs in 32 at-bats to Bryce Harper, the Washington right fielder. He has made at least 31 starts in each of the last three seasons.

"He has been a guy that takes the ball," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "It is something you can count on. Tom is a picture of consistency for us."

The Nationals won the series opener 4-2 on Monday as Harper and pinch-hitter Adam Lind hit homers off reliever David Phelps.

In the second game Wednesday, the Marlins scored two runs in the first off right-hander Tanner Roark before the bats awoke for the Nationals.

Washington scored four times in the fourth to chase starter Dan Straily and came back to win 6-4.

"Well, he made an adjustment," manager Dusty Baker said of Roark. "He was throwing high with his fastball. This is a team that's hit him pretty good in the past. He's had some success the last couple times out, but Tanner makes adjustments. Wieters helped him make those adjustments. Wieters called a very good game for him. He went a little longer than we had thought."

Baker is encouraged by the fast start of first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who hit a homer Wednesday and is batting .427 coming off the worst year of his career, when he hit .218.

"He's healthy. He feels good," Baker said. "You see his confidence growing daily. He hit a tough pitch out to right field. That's a good sign, especially this early in the year when that ball's not flying out there too much until it warms up. Anything he gives us is big, especially in the middle of that lineup. He's getting better every day."

MORE NATIONALS: TEN CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS IN 2017

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Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wade Davis struck out batting leader Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end Washington's ninth-inning rally, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Nationals 5-4 Monday night.

In jeopardy of being shut out for the first time this season, the NL East-leading Nationals scored four times in the ninth. Their comeback began against Hector Rondon and continued when Davis entered.

MORE: CSN'S UPDATED MLB POWER RANKINGS

With Washington down 5-3, Bryce Harper's single loaded the bases with two outs. Davis threw a wild pitch that scored a run before striking out a swinging Zimmerman, who's hitting .344. The final pitch bounced, and catcher Willson Contreras zipped a low throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to close out the victory.

Contreras hit a leadoff home run in his first career game-opening at-bat and Eddie Butler (4-2) worked five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs ahead.

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2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

The Dodgers are living their best life right now. 

Cody Bellinger looks like he's just going to go and hit two home runs a game for the rest of the year, Yasiel Puig is fun again and they're fresh off a 10-game win streak. Kenley Jansen went 112 batters without issuing a walk. All of this is coming, by the way, during a year when Clayton Kershaw is more Very Good than he is Great.

It's a good time to be a fan of an incredibly young and talented team in a top-5 market with a well-regarded front office that's been written a blank check. How did everyone not named the Dodgers do this week? To the rankings! 

2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

30. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2017 Record: 24-49
Previous Ranking: 30
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Notable Performance:  Maikel Franco (.333/.419/.481 last week)

And there goes Maikel Franco, right back on the trade block. The Phillies' rebuild is starting to look a lot murkier. 

29. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2017 Record: 27-50
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Brandon Belt (.316/.409/.947 last week)

It's weird to see the Giants play THIS poorly. Johnny Cueto is arguably the best available starter on the trade market though, and that obviously bodes well for their future. 

28. CINCINNATI REDS

2017 Record: 29-38
Previous Ranking: 27
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Joey Votto (.360/.385/.680 last week)

When you go 1-9 over the last 10 and let the Nats put an 18-spot on you, you drop a spot or two in the rankings. Them's the rules. 

27. SAN DIEGO PADRES

2017 Record: 31-44
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Notable Performance: Yangervis Solarte (.364/.462/.909 last week)

In an annual July tradition, the Padres will fleece someone for one of their relievers. Brad Hand in a Dodgers uniform, anyone? 

26. DETROIT TIGERS

2017 Record: 32-42
Previous Ranking: 15
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Miguel Cabrera (.400/.444/.840 last week)

The Tigers are our biggest fallers of the week. 2-8 in their last 10, including a frustrating Perfect Game bid broken up by a bunt single. Not their best week. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE