The Marlins will send Javier Vazquez to the mound, and the Nationals will counter with another right-handed veteran in Livan Hernandez. Florida manager Jack McKeon has stressed to his team that it should treat its current nine-game road trip as an opportunity to play against some division rivals.
"We have a chance to pick up some ground, but it's up to us and how much we want it," McKeon said. "I think the guys are up for it. You have some good clubs. This club is playing much better baseball, and so is Atlanta, so it's not an easy task, but if you're going to move up in the standings, you have to beat these guys."
The Marlins will visit the Braves after this series, and then they'll wrap up their road trip against the Mets. The Nationals, meanwhile, are playing against the same opponents -- but at home. Washington, 28-19 at home this year, will play host to the Mets and Braves -- in that order -- before going on the road.
Hernandez is 4-2 with a 3.09 ERA at home this season, and he's managed to complete at least six innings in nine of his last 13 outings. Washington has lost all three of the veteran's starts against Florida this year -- two by shutout -- and Hernandez has given up 20 hits and 11 earned runs in 17 innings.
Vazquez registered an ERA over 5.50 in each of the season's first three months, but he's turned it around to go 2-1 with a 3.70 mark in July. Vazquez has four quality starts in his last five outings. The lone exception came in his most recent start. Vazquez also got hit hard in a loss to Washington earlier this season.
Marlins: Hanley heats up in July
Hanley Ramirez has quietly put together a strong July, batting .316 (25-for-79) with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 22 games. Florida's shortstop has stolen 18 bases this season, but he's been caught stealing eight times. Ramirez is on pace for career lows in average (.245), on-base percentage (.338) and slugging percentage (.386).
Nationals: Gomes strong against southpaws
The Nationals traded two prospects for Jonny Gomes before Tuesday's game, increasing their outfield depth and adding a player with a propensity to hit left-handed pitching. Gomes is hitting .211 with a .336 on-base percentage and .399 slugging percentage overall, but he's a .333/.439/.537 hitter against southpaws.
Seven of Washington's last 10 losses have been by one run. ... Florida veteran Greg Dobbs drove in a career-high five runs in Tuesday's series opener. ... Washington has lost five of its last six games. ... Gaby Sanchez missed his first start of the season on Tuesday due to a tight left hamstring.