Although they face long odds in their quest to get back to the playoffs, the Washington Nationals haven't given up hope during one of their best stretches.
Sending Stephen Strasburg to the mound at Nationals Park against baseball's worst offense could help add to that run.
Strasburg and the Nationals will try for their seventh win in eight games Wednesday night when they take on the visiting Miami Marlins.
Ross Ohlendorf became the latest pitcher to stymie the Marlins (49-81), allowing one run and three hits over five innings in a 2-1 win in Tuesday's series opener. NL-worst Miami has averaged 2.0 runs and hit .181 while dropping six of seven and ranks last in the major leagues with 416 runs, 73 home runs and a .230 batting average.
Ian Desmond continued his tear at home with three hits to help the Nationals (66-65) win their fourth straight in the nation's capital against the Marlins. He's 14 for 28 during a seven-game hitting streak in Washington.
The defending NL East champs moved within seven games of Cincinnati for the final NL wild-card spot - with Arizona in between - following the Reds' loss in St. Louis.
"Now's the time,' manager Davey Johnson said. "I still think we need to win close to 90 games (to make the playoffs). So every game we need to play well, we need to pitch well.'
Johnson's club will try to keep trimming that deficit by giving the ball to Strasburg (6-9, 3.00 ERA), who is 5-4 with a 1.58 ERA in 13 home starts. He's given up three runs and 11 hits with 31 strikeouts over 24 innings in his last three there.
Strasburg was an out away from his second complete game in three starts before Donnie Murphy hit a game-tying two-run homer in the Nationals' 5-4, 13-inning win at Wrigley Field on Thursday. Strasburg struck out eight while allowing four runs over 8 2-3 innings.
"I can look at the last inning or I can look at all the other innings where I was pitching really well, so I'm going to focus on the positive," Strasburg told the team's official website.
The right-hander hasn't given up a run in three of his last four home meetings against Miami after he yielded three hits over seven frames in a 2-0 opening-day victory.
The Marlins, though, got the best of Strasburg the last time they met at Marlins Park, tagging him for a career-worst seven earned runs over two innings in an 8-3 loss July 12.
Giancarlo Stanton homered off Strasburg in that meeting and is 6 for 9 with two homers and three doubles against him the past two seasons. The slugger has struggled on the road, however, with a .163 average, one home run and four RBIs since June 18.
Miami counters with Henderson Alvarez (2-3, 3.86), who has gone 0-2 with a 6.50 ERA in his last three starts - all Miami losses. He surrendered a season-worst five runs over five innings in Thursday's 6-0 loss to the Dodgers.
The right-hander had a better performance the last time he faced the Nationals, allowing two runs and nine hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 10-inning loss on July 14.
Denard Span had two hits off Alvarez in that meeting and is batting .395 during a 10-game hitting streak overall.
Teammate Bryce Harper is 3 for 6 with a homer and double when facing Alvarez and batting .405 over a nine-game hitting streak.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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